By Alice Hen 

Tanya and I had a presentation at Gourmet Glatt Supermarket a while back about shopping successfully on a diet. Many of you asked us to put it into a write up/summary so here it is.

As we often hear, your diet begins not in your kitchen, but in the supermarket. As a woman, you have more power than you may realize. You are the one deciding what comes in to the house and how it is made.

Before You Go

Make a clear shopping list in categories, preferably on a paper versus your phone, you’ll see why soon.

Don’t go hungry or thirsty to avoid making the wrong decisions based on this.

At The Store

Most of us know this but it’s a good reminder: the outside parameters are where the produce always is. The aisles are where the junkier items are.

Don’t be distracted with your cell phone. I’m all for multitasking but not when it comes to making potentially bad choices with food. This is why I suggested making your list on a paper versus a phone.

Splurge On Helpful Diet Staples

Fargin” yourself items such as: Pre-cut fruits, pre-cut veggies, shredded carrots, spiralized zucchini, ready-cut and checked lettuce, pre-marinated chicken, healthy takeout, and pre-portioned items like cereal in a cup, individual rice options, snacks, etc.

Make It Fun/Pretty

Just like kids (and even I) get excited by new notebooks and colorful supplies, you too can make it more exciting by spending on some colorful or interesting additions versus the typical usual. Side benefit: Your kids will be more likely to want mommy’s food.

Think Ahead/Freezer Friendly

Plan to purchase items you can prepare ahead of time like soups and even proteins.

Short cuts/quickies. Let’s be realistic: life is busy! It’s important to have quick shortcuts on hand. Some examples include melba toast instead of a cooked grain or having bread available, string cheese as a quick, on-the-go protein, tuna in a bag versus a can for a quick no-mess and travel-friendly option, cucumbers and baby carrots or cherry tomatoes versus an official salad, and frozen vegetables to throw in the microwave or steamer.

How To Read A Label

Labels can be confusing, and even deceiving. Here are some tips for reading a label:

Count the ingredients. This is the simplest way to know if something is healthy or isn’t. More than 6 ingredients gets suspicious. Anything more than 10 definitely has junk. Some items have over 30 ingredients!

Protein and fiber importance. The higher the fiber and protein, the more filling and nutritious a snack will be. Anything with less than 4 grams of protein is usually not a great snack.

What to avoid. Names you don’t know. Corn syrup or sugar listed as one of the first ingredients versus being listed later on.

Tricky. Sugar free, fat free, no sugar added, gluten free, all natural, whole grain, whole wheat. These claims often pop out at you but can mean the item is still high in calories or fat or other categories just to make up for what it’s free in.

Potentially Confusing Items/Categories

Fruit: What is fruit and what isn’t? The market is flooded with items that seem to be fruit but really aren’t. Dried fruit, fruit leathers, fruit snacks, etc. As is, even dried fruit with no sugar added is higher in calories and sugar and is limited to a tiny serving (approx. 1 oz.). The general rule is if fruit is not the only ingredient, it isn’t considered fruit.

Yogurt. With so many options like fat free, sugar free, etc. how to pick? Look for 80–100 calories. Look for 8 grams of protein or more. Should be fat free. Should have under 7 grams of sugar. Greek yogurt is my preferred choice because it has a lot of protein and will keep you fuller longer.

Water. The amount of choices claiming to be as good as water is huge. I generally recommend mostly sticking to water and supplementing with seltzer (sodium free), Crystal Light, Vitamin Water Zero, and Bai water. I prefer these over others because they are sweetened with Truvia or Stevia versus artificial sweeteners.

Tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce. There is a difference. Spaghetti or marinara sauce is always higher in calories, fat, and sugar than tomato sauce. It is also easier than making your own and is delicious so compare brands. Some are significantly better than others.

Kids’ snacks. As I said in the beginning, you, as the mother, have more control than you realize. If you are selective about what comes in to the house, your kids will be more likely to eat healthy foods. Obviously, they can still have access to junk in school and at Bubby’s house, but you can keep your domain as healthy as possible. Follow the above guidelines making sure to choose less ingredients, high fiber, and high protein. Some snack ideas for kids include popcorn, pretzels, reduced-fat potato chips, apple chips, quinoa crisps, and Grab 1 bars.

Butter/Margarine/Smart Balance. Butter and margarine are saturated fats, so avoid them. Smart Balance is a good alternative for less calories, less fat, and no saturated fat.

Nuts and seeds. People tend to over buy (and over eat) these because they associate them with health. Although it is true they are healthy, very very small amounts are a serving. Of the whole nuts, I prefer almonds or cashews for their higher protein and lower fat when compared with other nuts. Beware of sunflower seeds that contain close to 700 calories and over 60 grams of fat per cup! Chia seeds are a nice addition occasionally and when limited to one teaspoon as a serving.

Dressings. When it comes to dressings, pick the ones lower in calories and in fat, as well as sugar. Also make sure to read the serving size very carefully. Sometimes when comparing two types you may be comparing 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (which is 3 teaspoons) so that’s tricky. There are dressings that are very junky but have zero calories, sugar, and fat. If you’re not nursing or pregnant, having these in moderation just to make eating salad more likely is fine.

Rice cakes/corn cakes/crackers. On our plan, we do not recommend having rice cakes or corn cakes due to their high glycemic index. These are examples of foods that although they are low in calories, have no nutritional value. Instead, choose whole wheat Melba toast or crackers. The more fiber, the better.

Oatmeal. Instant oatmeal has less fiber than the one you have to cook so that the cooking process is faster. Less fiber means it is less filling. So ideally get the old fashioned Quaker Oats and cook them. You may want to get some instant packs for those rushed mornings. Choose unsweetened ones and add your own sweetener if desired.

Cereal. Avoid corn- or rice-based cereals. (See rice cakes and corn cakes explanation.) Choose cereals that do not list sugar as one of the first ingredients. Look for high fiber and protein and the least ingredients possible. Some of my top picks: Cheerios, Fiber One, and plain Kashi.

Oils and cooking sprays. Whenever possible, use cooking spray to save on unnecessary calories and fat. If choosing oil for salads, choose olive oil, flaxseed oil, or sunflower oil.

The Takeout Section

Not all takeout is the same. The way in which the food was prepared makes a huge difference. Ask questions such as:

How was this made? Beware of oil, margarine, sugar and sugary sauces, etc.

Can you weigh it for me? Take out departments usually have a scale so they can save you the time of weighing it yourself later.

My Short List Of Don’ts

Don’t buy items that will be too hard to resist. If it isn’t in the house, you probably won’t have it. That simple. If you’re thinking it’s for the kids, get them things that you won’t be as tempted for or get exactly enough. For example, Tanya gets exactly 4 cupcakes for Shabbos, one for each of her kids. She also get snacks for school that she wouldn’t want.

Don’t buy big bags. Especially nuts, even if you think you’re saving money. Spend the little bit extra for individual packages to help with portion control.

Happy Shopping!


Alice Hen is a nutrition counselor and manager at Nutrition by Tanya with 11 locations including a branch in Five Towns right on Elderd Lane (behind Jildor shoes). Alice knows that making healthy choices is not always easy as she has been through the struggle herself. As an optimistic person, Alice’s favorite quote is: “It’s never too late to start eating better. If you have a bad morning, make it a better afternoon.” For more information on Nutrition by Tanya or the TAP (Tanya approved products) food line, please visit or call 844-Tanya-Diet (844-826-9234).  For daily tips and inspiration, follow us @nutritionbytanya on Instagram. Check out our cookbook, Cooking with Tanya, available for purchase on or an NBT location near you.


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