Grocery Shopping Tips from Summit Health’s Community Services

Healthy Me PA spoke with Leslie Stine, a registered dietitian with Summit Health, to learn how Summit Health’s Community Services are providing extended nutritional services through a grocery shopping tours program.


The grocery shopping tours program

Maintaining proper nutritional health is one way toward a healthy lifestyle, and that begins with knowing how to shop for the right foods.

Summit Health’s Community Services offers free grocery shopping tours throughout the year to help community members learn how to navigate their local grocery stores.

Registered dietitians and other trained employees take small groups, usually 10 to 15 people, through the produce, deli, salad bar, poultry, and other food aisles, reviewing products along the way.

Having tour guides helps “alleviate the burden of having to do your own research on products,” Stine said.

“You have staff to help you say, ‘Is this a good product for me and my goals?’”

The tours allow community members to become familiar with their local stores, compare products, and receive expert advice. The tour guides answer product questions and introduce new products that align with patients’ diets.

Stine said the tours are often a “two-way” learning experience. After leading a tour, Stine said, she learned new things from those within the group.

“It’s a good way to get to know your community, and the people in your community, too,” she said.

How to stay on track—before and after—your next shopping trip

When planning your next shopping trip, consider this advice from Stine.

  • Never go grocery shopping hungry. This might be the most important rule of all. If you shop when you are hungry, your stomach’s hunger pains will take over and push you to grab anything, and everything, in sight. While you think you’re filling your cart with delicious food, you probably are not including the best items to support your overall health.

This leads to the next rule.

  • Always make a shopping list. Your shopping list is your guide to navigating the store. Without a list, Stine said, you’re essentially just grabbing items that don’t go together. Your goal is to have food to make full meals, not snacks, or worse, no meals at all. If you need ideas, research recipes online and make your list from the ingredients.

Once you have your items:

Make time to meal prep

We all have busy lives. You should set aside one to two hours a week to prep your meals, whether lunch or dinner. When meal prepping, multitasking will be important because you might be preparing multiple meals at once for the week.

“You have to be organized. Have food items set aside to use and be ready,” Stine said.

If you’re a novice chef, Stine suggests pasta dishes because you can add anything to them, such as vegetables and proteins. To make a balanced meal, cook a protein, a vegetable, and a carb.