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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #66: Take a Grocery Store Field Trip

Show Notes

March 27, 2024

In this week's episode, I'm sharing one of my favorite assignments, which is to take a field trip to your grocery store. Take your time walking around the store to see:
1) What is easy?
2) What do I like?
3) What is in line with my health goals?

You'll be surprised to see how many great options are available, that you've overlooked during previous quick grocery store runs!

For more information or to work with Dr. Sarah Stombaugh, please visit


Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 66. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hello everyone and welcome to today's episode of the Conquer Your Weight podcast. We are talking about something that I hope you are excited for because this is an assignment that I give to my patients all of the time and I want you to listen up. I hope it appeals to you and I want you to take this assignment to go to your grocery store on a field trip. And let me tell you a little bit about what I mean. So frequently in going to the grocery store, even if we're super familiar with our grocery store or we think that we are really just in the habit of how can we get into and out of the store as quickly as possible. We tend to buy very similar things week after week. And so when we walk in the front door, we hit those certain things, we grab those and then we leave. And so if you're anything like me, I make that grocery store trip just as quick as possible, and I will be honest with you. A lot of times these days I am Instacarting, getting grocery store delivery even, but I want you to take a trip to your regular grocery store and see what are all of the different options that are available to me. So this is an assignment that I give to my patients pretty frequently because we get in these ruts where we feel like, oh my gosh, I'm eating the same thing over and over again, or I just don't know what's good, or I don't have anything in my pantry, or like, oh my gosh, everything takes so much effort. I just need something simple. If you have been having those type of thoughts, then my assignment for you is to go to your regular grocery store plan to spend at least one hour. You cannot do this any more quickly than that, at least one hour and maybe even closer to an hour and a half where you are really taking stock of everything that is in that grocery store. And what you are going to be looking for is what do I like? What is easy? What are the things that I both like as well as meet my nutritional needs and will nourish my body? And with that, I am confident that you will be able to figure out some foods that are easy and healthy and enjoyable to make your life and your weight loss goals so, so much easier. So one of the first myths that I want to bust is this idea that we should have so much different variety in our diets. It sounds really great on the surface to have a lot of variety, but what that also means is that it makes your life weigh more complicated and you're buying new ingredients and you need different spices and you're constantly having to look closely at recipes because you don't really remember how to make or maybe you've never made something before. And so the effort to make a recipe that you've never made before, it takes a lot more time and energy compared to something that you have made over and over again. And so one thing that I am going to encourage you to do is start to move towards the place where you have really eight to 10 sort of go-to dinner recipes that you eat in your household and you eat those same eight to 10 recipes on repeat. So you know that you always have the spices that you need or some of the base ingredients, things that are always going to be on hand and that you get it to the routine of eating those and really enjoying them. I want you to find recipes that are easy. I say the word recipe, but I don't even really mean recipe because I kind of just mean meal. So it can be something that you cobble together. So let me give you some examples. So in this grocery store field trip, what I want you to be looking for are what of the things that are easy that I like and will meet my health goals. So you are going to maybe not even put food into your cart, walk around the store. I would even encourage you to do it without a grocery store cart and walk around the store and just taking inventory of what is there. And I want you to be following those rules. What is easy? What do I like and what will meet my nutritional goals? So looking for things like in the deli section of your pharmacy, are there rotisserie chickens? Are there precooked meats or pre-seasoned meats? It's very common that grocery stores will have fish or meat that has been marinated and all you need to do is just throw it onto a skillet or into the oven or on a grill. So it really eliminates all of the prep time. You just literally have to do the cooking or sometimes meat that has actually been fully cooked. And so all you have to do is reheat it. A lot of times that is available in your deli section or sometimes in the packaged meat section there is a pre-cooked meat that's there as well. So look for those pre-seasoned, pre-marinated or even precooked options. See if there are ones there that would be enjoyable to you. Or things like sausage for example. Especially when you look at chicken sausages, things that are precooked and actually just need to be heated through are really great options for just super quick meal. Then take a look in your produce section. A lot of my patients are like, oh my gosh, I wish I could eat more produce, but I just don't really have the time to cut it up. If you find yourself in that position, take a look in the produce section because most grocery stores now have entire sections dedicated to fully prepped ingredients. So there will be diced onions, there will be sliced peppers, there will be precut carrots and celery, precut apples, things that are really fully ready to go, they're going to be a little bit more expensive compared to if you bought an onion by itself, it might cost you a dollar or two and if you bought diced onions, it might cost you three or $4. But when you think about your time as money and you think about that convenience factor, is it worth it to you to spend an extra one or $2 to have that convenience and only you can decide that Looking at some of the bagged salads, so some bagged salads are kind of sad. It's really just a mix with a little bit of cabbage and dressing. But there are other ones really over the last couple of years I feel like I've seen an explosion of bagged salads in the grocery store that are really pretty appealing and they have cheeses and they have nuts and they have croutons and they have dried fruit sometimes and things that make them more than just sort of a sad cabbage and lettuce and carrot salad. And so take a look at the bags of salad. Are there any ones that appeal to you there? Because a super simple meal is a bag of salad paired with a lean protein, even that fully pre-cooked chicken or fish for example that you've already picked up in your deli section. Also looking for pre-washed fruit. So it's common people are like, oh my gosh, I love eating berries, but I'm on the go. Buy ones that are pre-washed or pre-cut. That can be a really easy option so that you're not having to wash it. Things like pineapple being precut or watermelon being precut, it doesn't matter. It's going to cost a little bit more money, but there is nothing inherently better for you about a completely fresh pineapple that you've cut yourself versus one that has been cut for you by another person. Another great option is whole fruit. So I am particularly a fan of apples when I'm eating something like an apple, I do like to pair it with nuts or a nut butter or cheese to make sure that you're getting some fat, that you're getting some protein in order to create more of a substance to it. And so it's not just this carbohydrate and fiber that you're getting, but you're really getting a more balanced energy when you're having that. But whole fruit is great because it's super easy. It's something that like an apple, you just rinse off, dry off and then you can eat it. So there's very little preparation that's required in order to have it. Things like oranges, pears, bananas, they're also decent options. I will tell you, I can't tell you the number of times I have put a clementine in my bag just to carry it around with me all day long because somehow peeling it was just a little bit too much effort. So know yourself, be honest with yourself. If you're going to carry a clementine for three days before you finally have to throw it away, now it's just totally squished. That may not be the best option, but something that is a little bit more hearty like an apple, super easy to throw in your bag, have as a go-to item. Looking in the aisles of the grocery store. So in the aisles is often where we are finding foods that are typically not as healthy for us, but that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of healthy options. One place that I always point people to are the individual packet section. So a lot of times in a snack aisle there will be individual packets of nuts of nut butters, things like jerky, like beef jerky or turkey jerky. I've even seen actually packets of olives or artichokes designed to be in these sort of single servings or pickles, even sort of these single serving grab and go options, even ones for a while. The hundred calorie packs were super common, those aren't as common anymore, but that's even a great way to get an individual packet of something. And it's great because it's something if you want to have nuts, for example, you're not trying to portion them out. If you're running out the door, you can literally grab packets of things and throw them into your bag rather than having to stop and portion them out. And that barrier, even if we're talking about 30 seconds, if you have a really busy morning, that may be the difference between having something healthy available to you versus not. And so those convenience measures I think are really an excellent thing to do. I also really love canned or especially the pouches of tuna chicken too, but tuna, salmon and chicken, some of the more common brands that have always had cans of tuna over the last couple of years have started making tuna in pouches and they have some really interesting flavors. So they'll have buffalo tuna for example, or ranch flavored or lemon zest and chili. There's a Thai chili one and there are some tunas chicken salmon that are actually really pretty good, and those are one of my go-tos when I'm traveling. I almost always throw a couple of those into my suitcase because I think could be really challenging to find good protein sources when you're on the road and especially a protein source that is going to be shelf stable. You're not going to necessarily throw a chicken breast into your luggage, although I do have a patient who does that sometimes and I have to highly commend her because she makes sure that she brings that in her purse when she's traveling. But I like to make sure I have something I can just throw in there. I don't have to worry about it going bad. It's going to be shelf stable. So I would point you to look in that section of all of the pouches of tuna, chicken, salmon, that type of thing. I also want you to take a look in the frozen food section. Are there fruits there that are really convenient for you? A lot of times, berries, for example, are frozen and are much more affordable compared to fresh berries. They also last longer, right? A lot of times I'm sure you've had the experiences I have of buying fresh berries being really excited about them, and two days later when you go to eat them, you realize that all of your raspberries or blackberries have gone completely moldy. And that is such a frustrating thing when that happens. And so buying frozen berries is a really excellent way to make sure that you don't risk that. I love pairing frozen berries onto overnight oats or onto yogurt. So you can either pre-prep individual packets of yogurt or just buy individual packets of yogurt. And when those berries get kind of melty, they actually make for a really nice texture into the yogurt. And so that's a great way to use those frozen berries. Similarly, there's a lot of vegetables that you can buy. I will be honest with you, I have tried so stinking hard to find frozen vegetables that I just love. And there are only a couple that I love and only in a couple of preparations. And what I have found is edamame, which is soybeans in the pod are really lovely because they just have to be steamed or cooked on the stove top in a little bit of boiling water. So edamame is a really great option for something frozen that heats up, maintains its integrity, doesn't get soggy. And cauliflower rice is another really great option if you have never tried riced cauliflower before, sometimes it's labeled cauliflower rice or rice cauliflower, they're the exact same thing. You can sometimes buy this in that produce section in that precut fruits and vegetables area that I was talking about. Sometimes they will have cauliflower rice there. It's also often in the frozen food section, which is where I typically buy it, because I know that it can last in my freezer for a much longer time so it doesn't have that same expiration date like something in my refrigerator I would want to use within a week, for example. But cauliflower rice is a really great substitute for traditional rice. So if you are someone who loves eating things on a bed of rice, that is a really meaningful amount of carbohydrate and that may be in line with your health goals. But if it's not, you're trying to lose weight. If you're trying to decrease some of those easy to digest carbohydrates, decreasing the amount of rice and your diet is a really excellent way to support that health goal. And cauliflower rice is a really nice substitute and I recommend picking that up in the frozen food section. The other type of frozen vegetables I love are stir fry vegetables. I find that those cook up really nicely and pretty often I will buy precut onions or precut green peppers, which are really nice base ingredients for recipes that I make often, and it saves me a lot of time to not have to be cutting those up when I want to make a recipe. Similarly, it's funny, I think I said there was two I like as I'm thinking about it, recognizing two sliced peppers, sometimes sliced peppers and onions are a really great way if you want to make fajitas for example, that is a really great way to get those sliced up. They last for a long time and can be a good option to just have in the freezer for a busy night. So that is something we actually almost always have in our freezer as well. And then take a look, are there a lot of times some of the meat that is in the frozen section is a great way to get meat at a cheaper price. So meat that is frozen a lot of times individually frozen chicken breasts are a great way. If you're making crockpot meals for example, or want to have chicken, but don't worry about it going bad, that freezer option is a really great way to do it. So take a look. There are probably things that may really surprise you that may be really good and really easy. I also want you to take a look in the refrigerated section and in this refrigerated section, lots of great options, but I particularly want you to focus on yogurts. So looking for Greek yogurt, sometimes even Greek yogurt that has additional protein added to it. I've recently been on an Oikos Pro kick. Pro, P-R-O, stands for protein, and that Oikos Pro is really nice because it has additional protein such that it has 20 grams of protein in one of those single serving yogurts, and those are a really great way to get in protein, but it doesn't have a lot of fat. It's made with 2% milk and it doesn't have any added sugar. It's made with, I believe it's monk fruit and stevia. But don't quote me on that, I haven't looked at one of those labels in a while, but it certainly doesn't have added sugar. So that is one thing you want to be really cognizant of is getting a yogurt, getting a Greek yogurt, and ideally getting a plain one or one that is not sweetened with sugar because some of the Greek yogurts, we think that we're making a really healthy choice, but if you read the side of the label, you may be having nine, 10, I've even seen 20 grams of added sugar in some of these yogurts, which is simply a lot of added sugar. And as a reminder, there are four grams of sugar in one teaspoon. So if you look at a ingredient list and see that there are 12 grams of added sugar, for example, that is three teaspoons worth of added sugar or one tablespoon worth of added sugar, which is a really meaningful amount to add to that teeny tiny cup of yogurt. So I think yogurt is an excellent choice. Just make sure that when you're having it, that you're not getting a lot of sneaky hidden sugar in that as well. Another thing I really like to pair with yogurt is things like nuts and seeds. I know commonly we think about eating yogurt and we think about pairing that with granola. I am so sorry to report that granola is one of those foods that seems like it's really healthy for you, but tends to have a lot of added sugar. That is not always the case. Certainly if you make homemade granola or there are certain brands that have really minimal added sugar, but the reality is is that honey or maple syrup are typically the basis for these sometimes high fructose corn syrup depending on the brand. And so there is typically a meaningful amount of added sugar in granola. It may mean that you can still have some granola, but if you look at the label, just make sure you're reading it because a lot of times it'll say a quarter of cups serving, for example, and you may be inadvertently having way more than a serving size. And so that added sugar can add up really, really quickly. But if you love to get crunch on top of your yogurt, which I know that I do, I love adding seeds and or nuts on top of my yogurt. So that can look like chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, pepitas, sometimes different mixed nuts that can give you a really nice crunch without having any of that added sugar. And so when you mix some of those frozen berries that have maybe melted a little bit, some of those different seeds onto your yogurt, you can have a really decadent breakfast that is now giving you lots of protein from your yogurt, some healthy omega fatty acids from those seeds, and then some fiber from that fruit as well as from those seeds, which can be a really excellent breakfast or a snack option. I also want you in that dairy and refrigerated section to look for things like individual cheeses. There are small packs of mozzarella cheeses, mozzarella cheese sticks. There are also baby bell cheeses, for example. So take a look at what are the things that are easy that I could throw in my bag and would be easy and enjoyable for me to eat. There's also a lot of other stuff that may be in line with your goal, like Rico cottage cheese or cottage cheese, for example. Also take a look at some of the pre-made guacamole. I don't think anyone thinks that pre-made guacamole is the most amazing food under the sun. Certainly a fresh avocado will beat a pre-made guacamole any day, but pre-made guacamole is actually pretty decent and is a great choice when you're trying to get some of those healthy fats. Find something that has a good amount of fiber that is going to satiate you. Similarly, I also really like hummus and hummus often comes in those individual packets, which is a really great grab and go option, especially if you wanted to pair it with something like carrot sticks or pre-cut celery, something in that pre-cut vegetable section just making for a really easy grab and go type option. But take a look at everything. These are just some things that I want you to particularly pay attention to, but you might find that there are other foods that appeal to you as well. Or even as I'm moving on, I'm thinking like, Ooh, zoodles. I forgot to say zoodles. So a lot of times both in the produce section of the grocery store and or the frozen food section of the grocery store, there will be zoodles, which are zucchini made noodles. So basically using a spiralizer to take a zucchini and turn it into a noodle, but it's of course very low carbohydrate because it's just a zucchini. And so that can be a really great option as well if you're looking to decrease carbohydrates in your diet. And so there's a lot of things, certainly so many things that I haven't mentioned or just aren't at the forefront of my mind right now, but when you go to the grocery store to take a look and say, okay, what do I like? What is easy and what is going to help me meet my health goals? And with that lens to really walk through the grocery store and find, are there bars that are easy for me? Are there fruits that I enjoy? Are there individual packets? Whatever it is that is going to make your weight loss journeys simple because when there has been a major shift in the type of foods that you're trying to eat, it's not going to be easy at first. It's simple, but it's not necessarily going to be easy. There's going to be some resistance of getting into those new patterns. And so I want you to feel like you have done everything in your power to make it as easy as possible, and that can go for your meals as well. These do not have to be really complex meals of recipes that take an hour or more to make. It can be something that you kind of cobble together. So for example, a bag of salad with one of those precooked chicken or fish, for example, that I had mentioned. That is such an easy way to have dinner on your plate in literally less than five minutes thinking about having foods. For example, like bowls. We often will eat Asian bowls or fajita bowls in our family, and I'll do precut and pre-washed broccoli. That is a lifesaver in our family. You can often buy both broccoli and cauliflower that had been precut and pre-washed. I almost always buy, Costco has a three pound bag of broccoli that at our location at least is $4.99, which three pounds is a huge amount of broccoli. I wish this was a video so that I could hold it up and show you simply how much broccoli that is. It's probably like five heads worth of broccoli. And it's $4.99. I mean, that is a steal. It is precut. It is pre-washed. So literally all you have to do is, I mean, one, you could eat it raw if you want to, but you just have to cook it and then you get to eat it. And so I might cook that on the skillet with a little bit of toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds, a little bit of salt, and then we'll put that onto a bowl of cauliflower rice with chicken or beef, for example, we'll do fajita bowls where we cook some of that frozen chicken or frozen peppers in a crockpot with just one of those packets of fajita seasoning. Let that cook all day long, come home, shred the chicken, put it onto tortillas, put it onto a bed of rice or a bed of cauliflower rice, and it makes for just a super simple meal that is also really enjoyable. And we can often, especially with the bowls, as you know, I have young kids and different people have different preferences, so we let everybody create their meal with all of the ingredients sort of laid out buffet style. People get to choose what they want on it. And so that's a fun way for our whole family to partake in the same meal, but not always necessarily have the exact same thing on our plate. So think about this idea of what are your eight to 10 go-to recipes. If you had, let's say, 10 recipes and you cooked five days a week, and maybe one day was just a really big batch so week that for two meals, if every two weeks you were eating some of those same recipes over and over again, would that meet your health needs? Would that be enjoyable? Would that feel too repetitive? Is that something that would really be helpful for you and for your family? I will venture to say probably yes, and if you want to spend more time on the weekend or on a special occasion cooking, then you can absolutely do that. But you feel like you're running around a wild person because your life is so busy. Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be. Know what foods are at your grocery store. Have those go-to recipes and make it as simple as possible because there is nothing healthier about a meal that took five hours to prepare or two hours to prepare compared to a meal that is prepared within five minutes. So I hope this was helpful, thinking about what can make it really simple for you. One thing that I have done with patients in my clinic is actually go on their grocery store field trip with them. So if you are local to me in Charlottesville, Virginia and you're like, oh, I wish I just had someone to walk me around the grocery store and show me what to do, I have done that with my patients and I would be more than happy to do that with you. If you are a patient in my clinic and if you are local to me, I'm not going to fly anywhere to go on a grocery store trip with you, but I would love to do that. If you are local to you, meet in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. If you are in Charlottesville or throughout the state of Virginia or Illinois where I'm licensed to practice medicine, I would love to have you as a patient in my weight loss practice. If you're interested in learning more, please visit my website at That's Thank you all so much for joining me this week. I look forward to seeing you next week. Bye-Bye.
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