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a healthy diet starts at the grocery store

Your health insurance will take care of you when you're sick, but you can avoid many health problems in the first place by eating healthy foods.

It sounds simple enough: Eat healthy, be healthy. But all too often, our fast-paced and hectic lifestyles make it difficult to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some days it seems we barely have time to eat, let alone run to the grocery store or cook a well-rounded meal.

If you can keep your cupboards stocked with good foods, however, then good eating is sure to follow. That's why we've compiled a few tips on how to grocery shop the healthy way.

Make a grocery list (and make sure to take it with you!)

Grocery stores are getting larger and larger, and if you don't have a grocery list in hand, it's easy to wander aimlessly, grabbing things you don't need and forgetting things you do. Generally, the essentials — produce, bread, and milk — are on opposite sides of the store so that you have to traverse the place in its entirety just to collect what you need. By arming yourself with a list, you'll be more prepared to conquer the vast expanse between apples and yogurt. Keep your list in hand and don't go down aisles that don't supply something you need.

Love the produce

If you must wander aimlessly, do it in the produce section. Meander between broccoli florets and watermelon halves and fill your basket with color. Different colors represent different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The more naturally colorful (sorry, Cheetos don't count!) your diet, the healthier you'll be. Stock up on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and remember: the brighter the better.

Be bold

Variety is the spice of life, and this old adage certainly applies to grocery shopping as well. Try a new fruit or vegetable every week. Who knew kohlrabi was so good in salad, or that loquats could be used to make jam? It's tempting to eat the same things over and over again, but unless you have a diverse diet to begin with, you'll be hard-pressed to get all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Have fun. Try new foods and recipes every week. You never know when you'll find a new favorite!

Spice things up

Adding a new spice to an old dish can make dinner more exciting ... and healthy. Spices have a ton of health benefits, and with so many to choose from, you can try a variety of combinations and tastes. Some of the healthiest spices out there are cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, garlic, and thyme.

Fish, don't hunt

Generally speaking, fish is healthier for you than red meats. Red meat often increases cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease, while fish is known to reduce cholesterol and is recommended by heart doctors far and wide. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous potential benefits including decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clotting, and enhancing immune function.

Red meat, on the other hand, has been linked to several different types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. Try to eat mostly fish (salmon is particularly healthy and tasty) and poultry (skinless white chicken or turkey breast is best). You don't have to give up red meat altogether, just limit your intake and try to buy lean cuts, such as round, chuck, sirloin, and tenderloin, whenever possible.

If you can't say it, don't buy it

Try to buy fresh, organic, and natural products and avoid processed foods whenever you can. As a rule of thumb, if it's bagged, boxed, canned, or jarred; has more than a handful of ingredients listed; or lists ingredients with names you can't pronounce, it's more than likely processed. Processed foods are known to have carcinogenic properties, and have been linked to obesity and heart disease. So if it's a long and healthy life you're after, buy unprocessed foods with wholesome ingredients you can pronounce, like wheat, eggs, and milk!

Plan your route

Keep in mind that most of your staples, like fruit, veggies, meat, and dairy are located around the perimeter of the store. Skirt the edge of the store for what you need and try to steer clear of the center aisles, where all the junk food is lurking.

The grocery store can be a tough place to conquer, especially if you're trying to maintain a healthy diet. By learning how to avoid the many pitfalls that are intentionally placed in your way, you can avoid diet setbacks and successfully stay on the path to good health!

Maintaining a health insurance plan that meets your needs is as important as maintaining a healthy diet. At Esurance, we know how important it is to have health insurance coverage that you can depend on. That's why we've partnered with eHealthInsurance, a leading online source for individual and family health insurance. Get your free quote online, and compare plans side-by-side to get the best available rate.