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Let's Go Shopping!

Knowing the calorie content of grocery food is essential for weight control.
Therefore, we will now take a tour of the average Grocery Store - aisle by aisle. As we go along, we'll discuss the food items in each aisle and how they impact your weight and your health. We will point out which foods should be avoided and which should be sought out. We will learn the importance of nutrition labels and how to interpret them. And we will classify foods accordingly, into 4 broad categories:

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  1. Unacceptable (harmful to health and detrimental for weight control)
  2. Acceptable (neutral for health and acceptable in weight control)
  3. Healthy in small amounts, but requiring portion control due to rather high calorie content
  4. Great Foods (good for health and beneficial for weight control even in larger amounts)

The goal is for you to learn to classify foods into one of the above categories at a glance, just by looking at the food or the nutrition label. This only sounds complicated. It is actually quite simple if you have the right information and a little practice.

Ready? Lets get started: We have entered the grocery store and grabbed our cart. What we put in that cart will influence the success of our weight control program. With that in mind, let's start moving through the aisles:

Grocery Food Facts
Fruit and Vegetables:

In many a grocery store, right at the entry you will find the Fruit and Vegetable Section. On the whole, most items here fall in the category of great foods. Most fruit and vegetables have a low glycemic index and a high fiber content, both of which are beneficial for weight control.
Moreover, fruit and vegetables bring valuable antioxidants into the body. Check out the links below for specific details:
Fruit Nutrition Facts - how to choose the right fruit for your weight loss program
Vegetable Nutrition Facts - how to choose the right vegetables for your weight loss program

Grocery Food Facts
Deli Food:

We are now heading to the Deli. This is a mixed aisle, where some foods are acceptable and quite a few unacceptable for weight control purposes.
Please note that Meats, Seafood and Cheeses will be covered in this section. Check out this link for details on individual deli products:
Deli Food: How does it affect your weight loss program?

Grocery Food Facts
Breads and Bakery:

Let's now turn our attention to the Breads and Bakery Department. Generally speaking, whole grain breads are great foods for weight control. They contain 'good carbs', are rich in fiber, and bring in a fairly low number of calories when consumed in reasonable amounts. White (refined) breads, on the other hand, are not as advantageous: They have a significantly higher glycemic index and a negligible fiber content.

Going one step further, we reach a problem area: Right next to "Breads" lurks the danger of the Bakery Department. In this loaded area, all our weight control efforts can quickly come to naught.
To learn more, take a tour of the Breads and Bakery Department.

Grocery Food Facts
Dairy Aisle:

Our next stop is the Dairy Section. From the point of view of weight control, this section is full of great foods, if only you choose wisely. Reading nutrition labels is essential in this aisle: Always look for dairy products with the lowest possible amount of fat. There is no significant taste difference between these and the corresponding full-fat versions. In my opinion, the low-fat products actually taste better, since they don't leave you with that fatty aftertaste.
For further details, check out the link below.
Dairy Products: How do they affect your weight loss program?

Grocery Food Facts
Cereals and other Breakfast Foods:

A healthy breakfast is a prerequisite for weight control, since it helps curb hunger and control cravings later in the day. Cereals are generally considered a great way of having breakfast, but keep this in mind: Not all cereals are created alike! Some are indeed beneficial for weight control, while others can be downright detrimental. To find out more, and to see what other breakfast options the grocery store has to offer, follow this link:
Breakfast Foods: How do they affect your weight loss program?

Grocery Food Facts
Freezer Aisle:

On the whole, this aisle can be deeply damaging to a weight loss program. To find out more, including the few exceptions to the rule, use the link below.
Frozen Foods: How do they affect your weight loss program?

Grocery Food Facts
Organic Foods:

The organic concept is an attractive one for weight control and for overall health. However, organic foods are not automatically guaranteed to keep your weight in check. To find out how organic foods work in weight control, see our chapter on Organic Nutrition.

Grocery Food Facts

A wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks is usually offered at any grocery store. As a general rule, any alcohol-containing drink can be damaging to a weight loss program - since alcohol is highly caloric and is being used by the organism preferentially over other nutrients. For further details, check out this link:
Alcoholic Beverage: How does it affect your weight loss program?

As far as non-alcoholic drinks, many of them are detrimental for weight control due to the added sugars they contain. To learn more, see our section on Non-alcoholic Beverage.  Please note that coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and diet shakes such as Slim Fast are included in this section.

Grocery Food Facts
Baked Goods & Baking Needs:

This section covers cookies, crackers, cake & pie mixes and toppings, etc. As you can probably guess, many items in this aisle have no place in a weight control diet. The main offenders here are cookies and cake/pie mixes and toppings. Further details are available in our section on Baked Goods.

Grocery Food Facts
Ethnic Foods:

This aisle is present in certain grocery stores, particularly in urban areas. It is a mixed aisle containing a large variety of foods, which are impossible to cover here. Suffice it to say some of these foods can be rather caloric, so make sure to check nutrition labels and respect serving sizes. As usual, the main criteria to go by are: A reasonable total calorie count per serving (up to 300-400 calories), a saturated fat content below 3 grams, trans fats zero, cholesterol below 40-50 mg (the lower the better), and sugars below 6-7 grams. If the item is a side dish, shoot for a lower total calorie count (preferably up to 200 calories). If the item is a main dish, may go up to 300-400 calories.

Grocery Food Facts
Salad Dressings, Sauces & al:

What's interesting in this aisle is that healthy choices are usually as tasty as the more caloric items. The ground rule here is: Go for fat-free and low calorie items. In any case, your sauce or salad dressing should bring no more than 50 calories per serving. In fact, you can go much lower: Certain items bring as little as 0-5 calories per serving. To review some of the options available, check out this link:
Salad Dressings, Sauces & al: How do they affect your weight loss program?

Grocery Food Facts
Soups and Side Dishes:

This is another mixed aisle, especially as far as Side Dishes are concerned. Some can be downright awful for weight control, so it's essential to read the nutrition labels.
To the contrary, many soups are fairly reasonable in calorie content. This holds true especially for soups of liquid consistency, as opposed to creamy consistency.
And here's a thing to remember: Clear soup broth is a wonderful item for weight control, bringing in plenty of flavor for almost zero calories. To learn more, see our page about Soups and Side Dishes

Grocery Food Facts
Candy, Nuts, Popcorn:

  • The Candy Aisle is one part of the grocery store I recommend avoiding at all cost. It is sure to provide all the wrong calories, and plenty thereof (since munching on candy is oftentimes addictive).
  • Nuts are discussed in detail under Fruit. Suffice it to say that nuts are healthy, but fairly caloric. They do have a well-established place in weight control, due to their high content of unsaturated (healthy) fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, in particular, are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (about 2.5 grams per serving). However, 1 oz of nuts brings in about 180 calories. Therefore, it's important to respect the recommended serving sizes.
  • Popcorn is an acceptable item for weight control, if you pick the right kind (reduced-butter or butter-free).
For further details, check out this link:
Candy, Nuts, Popcorn

Grocery Food Facts
Pretzels and Chips:

In my opinion, these snacks have a high potential of derailing a weight loss program, mostly due to the danger of eating more than the recommended serving size. Especially if eating from a big bag, the risk of overeating is quite high. All in all, I think this aisle is best avoided. To learn more, including possible exceptions to the rule, see our section on Pretzels and Chips.

Grocery Food Facts
The Food Pyramid:

Finally, we're done with our shopping. Our cart is full of all the right things. Now, let's think for a moment how we're going to combine those things. This combination of food items in our daily diet is known as the food pyramid.

A properly balanced food pyramid should include the following (as per USDA guidelines):
  • Whole grain breads and cereals, rice, pasta - as a mainstay of our diet.
  • Vegetables and fruit - as the second most important food source (Note: Fruit juices should be limited.)
  • Lean meat, poultry or fish, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, eggs, beans - in the third place. (Note: Avoid frying your meat or eggs. Also, avoid butter, cream and sour cream, which are rich in saturated fat.)
  • Sweets and fats - to be used sparingly. (Note: Most of the fats you ingest should come from nuts, fish, and non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Limit solid fats such as butter, margarine or lard. Also, limit foods that are rich in added sugar.)
  • For seniors over the age of 70: Calcium supplements, vitamin D and vitamin B-12 may be recommended.
  • Persons suffering from certain medical conditions (such as renal disease, liver disease, diabetes, etc) may need some adjustments to the above-mentioned food pyramid.

Many food pyramid variations can be used short-term, and are actually helpful for achieving weight loss. To learn more about food pyramid variations and how they can facilitate weight loss, use the link above.

The controversial Atkin Diet is nothing more than a food pyramid variation. However, it is not one that I consider safe.

The South Beach Diet, on the other hand, is staunchly based on the conventional food pyramid. It simply emphasizes the right carbs to use for weight control and explains the reasons behind these choices.


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