I hear people say it all the time - I have no idea what is the best thing for me to eat...there are way too many options and not enough time to possibly go through all of them. Believe me, when I say, I totally get it! The grocery store can be an overwhelming place, especially as time goes on and our lives continue to get busier. And, though, my ultimate recommendation would be to have me physically go to the store with you, that's not always a realistic option so I'm going to outline basic tips; some might seem obvious, but I'll list them because they're just THAT important.
1) Spend the majority of your time in the produce area (fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables) and along the perimeter. Stores typically organize the healthier foods on the perimeter and the more processed, less healthy foods in the center.
2) Focus on looking for foods that are high in fiber and protein (in addition to ensuring you are eating plenty of fruits/vegetables). Both fiber and protein help you stay fuller, longer and protein helps create lean muscle mass.
3) Look for meat options that are lean; beef that is 96% lean, 4% fat or 97% lean, 3% fat. Chicken, turkey and most types of fish are also naturally lean.
4) Stay away from foods that have high fructose corn syrup and/or trans fats in them. Manufacturers seem to be making an effort to rid their products of these scary ingredients, but more work definitely needs to be done and it starts with consumers ensuring the foods they buy do not have these things in them. There are many other harmful ingredients to watch out for (artificial colors, preservatives for example), but high fructose corn syrup and trans fats are two of the major ones. Unfortunately, we have to take on this responsibility because manufactures still aren't completely there yet.
5) Look for items that say "100% whole grain" versus multi-grain. When something is whole grain, this means it has not been stripped of its nutrients and there are no grains included that might be considered less healthy. However, multi-grains can have refined, processed grains in there which makes them unhealthier generally speaking.
6) If you're a dairy lover, do not go for the low fat or no fat options; these tend to carry more sugar and additives/fillers so they can remain palatable. Consider buying 2% or whole milk, 2% of full fat yogurt. New research and studies suggest that you will not only stay fuller, longer, but you can also combat fat on your body with fat from certain types of food (assuming you do not overindulge in these foods). Foods like coconut oil/olive oil, nuts, and the dairy mentioned above are all perfect examples of "fat" filled foods that can be nutritious for us when we keep to the appropriate serving sizes. Think: "eat fat to fight fat."
7) Limit added sugar foods! It is OK to have sugar, just do so in moderation.
And, there you go! Some basic, simple rules to follow next time you shop. And, if you still need help, I can go with you to your store (assuming you're in the San Antonio area) and help you aisle by aisle.