As a dietitian, I am well aware that grocery shopping can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience for many people. For example, many of my patients don’t know where to begin when in the grocery store and aren’t sure which foods to add to their cart.
Plus, with seemingly endless food choices available — oftentimes in deceiving packaging — it can be hard to determine which foods are truly healthy and which ones are better left on the shelves.
In this article, I explain the basics of healthy grocery shopping, including how to choose nutritious foods, create a smart shopping list, and stock up so you can grocery shop less often.
Before you go
While some people can go grocery shopping without a list or an idea of which meals they’ll cook during the coming week, most people need some sort of a plan.
Bringing along a grocery list or a weekly menu is a good idea if you get easily side-tracked in the store or don’t know where to begin.
Creating a healthy shopping list
A grocery list is an essential tool for many shoppers. It can help you stay on task and remind you of the items you need. Plus, studies show that grocery lists may help you make healthier choices while shopping (1, 2).
But what does a “healthy” grocery shopping list include?
Generally, a healthy, well-rounded diet should primarily comprise whole, nutrient-dense foods. I’m talking about foods such as veggies, fruits, protein sources like fish and eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. These are foods to prioritize on your list.
When creating your shopping list, it can be helpful to break it into sections, such as nonstarchy and starchy vegetables, fruits, beans and grains, nuts and seeds, proteins, frozen foods, dairy and nondairy substitutes, drinks, condiments, and miscellaneous items.
Here’s an example of what a healthy grocery list might include:
- Fruits: apples, blueberries, clementines, grapefruits, and avocados
- Nonstarchy vegetables: broccoli, asparagus, onions, spinach, peppers, and zucchini
- Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, baby red potatoes, and butternut squash
- Beans and grains: chickpeas, brown rice, black beans, and quinoa
- Proteins: eggs, canned salmon, skin-on chicken breast, and pea protein powder
- Frozen foods: frozen mixed berries and frozen kale
- Nuts and seeds: roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, and natural peanut butter
- Dairy and nondairy substitutes: cashew milk, coconut milk, feta cheese, and full fat Greek yogurt
- Condiments: olives, sun-dried tomatoes, salad dressing, olive oil, pesto, and salsa
- Drinks: unsweetened coconut water and sparkling water
- Miscellaneous: ground coffee, dried fruit, dark chocolate, banana plantain chips, and shredded unsweetened coconut
You won’t have to purchase shelf-stable items like peanut butter, protein powder, and bulk grains every grocery trip. I cover how to stock your kitchen with long-lasting items further down this article.
For more detailed healthy shopping list ideas, check out this article.
Planning a weekly menu
If you prefer, you can bring a weekly menu to the store instead of a regular shopping list. This menu can list which ingredients you need to make the meals you’d like to cook the week ahead.
For example, if you’re a fan of meal prepping, try printing out the recipes you’re planning to make. Then, simply shop off of the ingredient lists.
Keep in mind that if you’re used to eating out or ordering in for most meals, trying to suddenly prepare all of your meals and snacks at home might not be realistic. Thus, if you’re new to meal prepping, start slowly and make it a goal to prepare just a few meals the first week.
Once that becomes a habit, you can add more meals to your weekly cooking menu. Like all healthy habits, it may take some time before regularly going grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals at home becomes a part of your routine.Read More