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Your Commissary – It's Worth the Trip!

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Getting The Most Health From Your Commissary Visit


Mother and daugther picking out fruit at a supermarket.

A major benefit of military life is the ability to shop at a commissary. How much you actually save will depend on what items you're purchasing. For some families, commissary shopping leads to significant savings. You can maximize the benefits if you head to the commissary, having done some homework beforehand. In addition to budget benefits, an organized outing to the commissary can lead to healthier meals for the family.

What to Choose?

The upside and the downside of many of the commissaries is the sheer number of products in the store. It can be overwhelming and confusing. For a simpler life and better health, just keep it simple: your food choices and your recipes.

Before you get there:

  • Select a few favorite recipes, especially ones that use leftovers.
  • Plan your weekly menu and coordinate meal preparation time with your schedule. Choose quick recipes and leftovers for busy days.
  • Build a basic shopping list. Figure out what you already have and what you need to buy.
  • Avoid shopping hungry.

At your commissary:

  • Stick to the list you made.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store for most of your food purchases because the inner aisles have the majority of processed foods, which can be high in sodium, fats and preservatives.
  • Spend the most time in the produce department.
  • Aim to fill most of your cart with fruits and vegetables, with the majority being fresh. Take advantage of the fresh produce that is on promotion.
    • When purchasing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables choose items that have no added salt or sugar.
  • Purchase some plant-based proteins like dried or canned beans for a couple of meatless meals during the week.
  • Choose the least processed foods. The fewer ingredients, the better. Aim for most of your items to have five ingredients or less.
  • Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients.
    • Choose items made with whole grain most of the time.
    • Avoid items made with high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars.
    • Aim for most of your products to have less than 200 mg of sodium per serving.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Balance, Variety, Moderation

Don't forget these basics when shopping. Most of us tend to choose the same foods over and over again. But varying the types of foods chosen, even the different colors of your vegetables and fruit, will keep meal time more interesting and make meals healthier. Be adventurous!

Balance your meals with an appropriate mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Check out the USDA's MyPlate for a quick snapshot of how our food plates should look.

The Navy and Marine Corp Public Health Center Healthy Eating site provides great resources, tips and guidance on how to be sure you choose foods that best fuel you and your family. Also be sure to check out the "How to Shop Healthy at Your Commissary" video.


(ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Favus is a registered dietitian and health educator in the health and wellness department at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.)


Want more information? Please visit our Resources page to see more articles and helpful links.

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