How to Navigate the Grocery Store: 7 Useful Tips for People in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

When you’re working on your recovery from an eating disorder, the grocery store can send you into a panic.  Here are some tips to help you cope with grocery shopping in West Chester, Pa:

1.     Get Centered

Before you even head to the grocery store, get grounded.  Get your nervous system regulated and mindfully notice where your emotions are, especially anxiety.  Visualize your shopping trip in entirety.  Imagine yourself successfully choosing foods that fit right with your recovery and getting through the store successfully without panic.  This trains your brian and helps it to practice the event in actuality.

2.     Come prepared

Make a list.  Look through your kitchen and see what you have.  Notice if you’re out of one of your staples like your favorite cereal.  Think about the exchanges in your food plan: protein, starch, fat, fruit, vegetables and dairy.  What are you in the mood for this week?  Will this be the week to branch out a bit and try that turkey melt you’ve been hankering for since you had it at that diner weeks ago?  If so, jot down the ingredients on your list. 

Create a list that is full, yet manageable.  Make sure you have staples and perhaps a few extra things that you could freeze if you don’t end up eating them.  Shoot for at least 3 items from each food group.

Don't go too hungry or too full - it will mess with your ability to make good choices.

3.     Stay Grounded

When you get to the store, take a deep breath, take a sip of water and give yourself a time frame to shoot for.  Grocery shopping shouldn’t take more than an hour and should probably take at least 15 minutes. 

Go through the aisles in order from one side of the store to the other – if possible.  If you notice yourself getting overwhelmed, get re-centered by taking a few deep breaths.  Remember you can leave at any time.

4.     Stay focused

Grocery Shopping for Eating Disorders in West Chester, Pa

It is easy to get overwhelmed, so when in doubt, stick to your list. Don’t get side-tracked reading labels.  If a new brand or food looks interesting to you, just grab it.  If you notice yourself fretting about which item to choose, take a deep breath, and grab the one that your inner child wants.

5.     Set healthy limits

If you’re newer in recovery, limit yourself to 1-2 challenge foods for that trip.  You don’t want to get too many and then sabotage later. 

6.     Get in and out

This does not need to become an activity that takes up your entire day.  If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t get to your entire list, that’s ok.  Try to make sure you’ve at least grabbed the basics, then scadaddle.  There’s always next time.

7.     Reward yourself

When you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, the grocery store is no joke.  Give yourself a reward like a hot bath, an hour with your favorite book or a new yummy smelling candle.

In case you’re overwhelmed by the grocery list, here’s simple generic example list that you can print out and circle items on, then fill in some specifics for your preferences:



  • Eggs                       
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk



  • cold cuts
  • to cook

Fruit: 3 types

Veggies: 3 types


Nut butter

Canned food:

Frozen food:

Baked items:

  • Bread
  • pastries

I hope you've found this helpful.  If you're still feeling overwhelmed, feel free to give me a call, I'd be happy to help.  610.314.8402.  If you have any more tips or comments, please comment below :)