Few dietitians are aware of how intimidating and overwhelming some of the easiest tasks can be, such as grocery shopping. And when you want to try a healthier approach, things get even harder.
In fact, so many people don’t even know where to begin when they go grocery shopping, as they aren’t sure which foods to add to their cart. While you might be tricked into believing that a lack of produce might be at fault for this feeling of uneasiness, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
There are SO many food choices available, that it makes it very hard for anyone to understand which foods are truly healthy ad which ones would be better left on the shelves.
So we thought that nothing would compare to a proper discussion about healthy grocery shopping. Trust me, you’ll be glad you read these things!
Creating a healthy shopping list
There are some folks out there who already have a list in their head of what they need to buy from the grocery store. But most people need a plan. Bringing a grocery list with your weekly menus is a wonderful idea.
A grocery list is nothing but an essential reminder for most shoppers. It will help you stay on track, and remind you of anything you might have missed. Even more, studies show that grocery lists might even help you make healthier choices.
However, the question we all have in our minds is probably “what does a healthy grocery shopping list consist of?” Well, a well-rounded diet is most of the time based on comprising the whole, nutrient-dense foods.
And when we say nutrients, we mean that you’re going to spend a lot of time at the vegetable and fruit aisles. You also need to make sure you have enough protein sources, such as fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
These foods need to be prioritized on your list. What might help you is to break the list into sections, such as starchy/nonstarchy veggies, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, proteins, frozen foods, but also dairy/nondairy, condiments, and other miscellaneous items. Here’s an example that might help you:
- Fruits: apples, bananas, blueberries, grapefruits, avocados;
- Nonstarchy veggies: broccoli, onions, asparagus, peppers, zucchini, spinach;
- Starchy veggies: baby red potatoes, butternut squash;
- Beans and grains: chickpeas, black beans, brown rice, quinoa;
- Proteins: eggs, canned salmon, skin-on chicken breast;
- Frozen foods: frozen mixed berries, frozen kale;
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, natural peanut butter;
- Dairy and nondairy substitutes: coconut milk, almond milk, full-fat Greek yogurt;
- Condiments: olives, salad dressings, pesto, salsa;
- Drinks: coconut water, sparkling water
- Miscellaneous: ground coffee, dried fruits, dark chocolate.
Of course, you won’t have to buy most of those items, such as peanut butter or quinoa, every time you go grocery shopping. The purpose of this list is to help you stock your kitchen with many long-lasting items.
Planning a weekly menu
Another option would be to bring a weekly menu made in advance at the store, instead of the usual shopping list. This menu might include all the ingredients you might need to make the meals you plan on cooking the week ahead.
If you like to prepare meals, consider printing out the recipes you plan on cooking. Then look out for the ingredients on the list when you go to the grocery store. Also, bear in mind that if you eat out a lot, trying to switch to full-time cooking at home might not be realistic, at least not from the start.
Even more, if you are new to meal prepping, you should rather start slowly and make a goal of preparing only a couple of meals in the first week. Once you get used to it, you can add as many meals as you want to your weekly menu.
Like any other healthy habit, it will take some time before you know exactly how to prepare every healthy meal at home.
How to stock your kitchen as a dietitian would?
I’m not a big fan of frequent grocery store trips, so if you’re anything like me, then you will get this. When you don’t plan on going grocery shopping twice a week, it’s highly important to stock your kitchen will all kinds of nonperishable and frozen foods. It will help you prepare various nutritious meals and snacks, even when it seems that you’re running low on fresh foods. It’s highly important to check your cabinets, pantry, and your refrigerator before making a list. It will cut down on food waste. You also need to purchase fresh items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and many other perishables, which are the ones that you can’t keep for too long, which means that you’ll buy these more often. However, on the other side, nonperishable foods can be frozen and kept for longer. Here’s how to keep long-lasting staples in your pantry:
- Nuts, seeds, nut butter – pistachio, cashews, almonds, but also natural almond butter. Although, you need to remember that there are some types of natural nut butter that will require to be refrigerated;
- Oils – olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil;
- Grains – quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, brown rice pasta;
- Unsweetened dried fruit – dried mango, raisins, dried cherries;
- Spices – garlic powder, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon;
- Canned & dried beans – black beans, chickpeas, lentils;
- Canned tuna & salmon – Wild Planet canned tuna and salmon;
- Baking goods and sweeteners – baking powder, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, flour blends, cocoa powder;
- Shelf-stable milk substitutes – oat milk, cashew milk, coconut milk;
- Sauces, dressings, condiments – marinara sauce, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce;
- Snack foods – trail mix, tortilla chips;
- long-lasting produce – potatoes, onion, butternut squash, garlic;
- Miscellaneous – dark chocolate chips, pea protein powder, coffee, chicken, and veggie broth.
- Protein sources: chicken, ground turkey, sausages, salmon;
- Frozen fruits and veggies: cherries, mango, spinach, edamame, broccoli, peas, riced cauliflower;
- Bread: sourdough;
- Nuts, flours, and grain-free flour: store flour, nuts, and nut-based flour.
At the store
Now that you have the slightest idea of how to properly prepare for shopping, let’s talk about what healthy grocery shopping implies. First things first, you want to focus on the following when you go grocery shopping:
- purchasing whole, nutrient-dense foods
- shopping off of your list
- avoiding buying foods only by the way they are packaged
- reading the nutrition labels
- sticking to your plan and avoiding impulse purchases
Of course, you’ll have to “fight the feeling”, so to speak, given that grocery stores ARE DESIGNED to encourage you to buy all kinds of highly-processed foods. Grocery stores will offer you sales on ultra-processed products more often than on healthy ones. After all, have you ever seen packaged broccoli at the checkout counters?
Navigating grocery aisles like a pro
There’s another trick that you should know when it comes to making healthier choices. Try perimeter shopping, and you will have your eyes only on the fresh fruits, veggies, and proteins.
Also, just because you might stumble upon an aisle that features highly processed products, this doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the ENTIRE aisle. Sometimes, you will find in these aisles a strange mix between nutritious and highly refined food. Haven’t you noticed that the snack-food aisle is right next to the nuts and seeds one?
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