The war against obesity is often lost at the grocery store. That’s because the best laid weight loss plans are easily derailed by impulse selections from the snack food aisle.  Before you can say “cream filled Ding Dongs,” you may find yourself with a cartful of items loaded with fat and lacking in nutrition.  So prior to your journey to the supermarket, arm yourself with a few simple techniques to help keep you on track with your weight loss program.

Shop the perimeter.  

Almost all grocery stores share a similar layout, designed to maximize purchases. Generally, the most fattening, processed foods are located in the center aisles.  In order to win the war against obesity, try shopping exclusively at the edges. As you move around the perimeter of the store, you will first encounter fresh vegetables.  At the back of the store are cold cases of fish and meat.  And the aisle farthest from the door is invariably reserved for dairy products and sometimes frozen foods.  

The dairy aisle displays a dangerous combination of nutritious food and junk.  Sitting next to the plain, low-fat yogurt is a brand loaded with unhealthy ingredients like sugary jam or even chocolate chips.  Whole milk sits next to the two percent variety.  Cheese is available in a staggering number of choices, some of which are part-skim, while others are calorie-counting disasters.  Similarly, the frozen food case can harbor everything from peas to bagels and pizza.  So gird yourself, run the gauntlet and make your way quickly to the cash register.

By avoiding the center aisles, you’ll escape all of the pasta, crackers, cereals, sodas, potato chips, peanuts, popcorn, macaroni and cheese, rice and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.  Of course, you’ve also missed out on the paper products and detergent, so you might be forced to deviate from the perimeter momentarily.  

Make a list – and stick to it.

Another effective technique is to make a complete list before leaving the house. If you’re serious about losing weight, you will not put ice cream on your list.  And yet, if you shop without a plan, you’re likely to be ambushed by a two-for-one deal on Häagen-Dazs.  

“Don’t shop hungry.”

There’s wisdom in that old saying.  When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to load up your cart with the empty-calorie foods that cause obesity.  

Beware the checkout area.  

Dangers lurk near the cash register in the form of greasy jelly donuts and brightly frosted cupcakes, not to mention the rack of seductive candy bars.  This is no accident. Before you leave, store managers hope to wring one last impulse purchase by laying a trap of sugar and fat.  This is where your willpower is truly put to the test. 

If you’re not yet strong enough to ignore the siren song of the junk food aisle, then you may need to forego shopping for a while.  Groceries can be ordered online in most areas.  Another option is to make use of a coupon code for BistroMD to have balanced, prepared meals delivered directly to your door, just make sure you don’t pay full price.  

If you don’t bring it home, it won’t be there to tempt you.

Until you have rock-solid willpower and can adhere to your weight loss program, it might be best to avoid that den of iniquity, the neighborhood grocery store.