An adjustment in eating habits requires a commitment to an entire lifestyle change. One place to start is your grocery store. This means changing the foods you purchase, your frequency of purchasing foods, and changing the stores you frequent.
Navigating the grocery store when you’re trying to eat healthy can often feel overwhelming. With a few simple grocery shopping strategies, you can save time, money, and energy. Fill your kitchen with fresh, nutritious, and high-quality ingredients. This will get you excited to consistently eat those foods – and consistency is the key to a healthy lifestyle!
Here are my top healthy grocery shopping tips including:
- the best foods to buy
- how often to go to the store
- how to choose the best grocery store that fits your needs
The Best Foods to Buy
You’ve been told to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is to assure the majority of your food is minimally processed. The healthiest foods are the ones without a nutrition label!
The more a food is in its original form, the better. Whole foods do not have added salt or questionable preservatives. They are also much more satiating and often hold you over longer with less calories.
Here are the essentials to shop for:
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Eat the Colors of the Rainbow?” Here’s what to look for.
- vegetables – look for whole vegetables, fresh or frozen; the ones that are already conveniently sliced, diced, made into salads, or easy grab and cook options make it easier to incorporate (*hint* never microwave steamables in a plastic bag!)
- fruits – whole fruits, fresh or frozen – in season will taste best but honestly buy the ones you are most likely to eat
Consider how much you need to buy to build your meals around these items (at least ½ your plate for each meal). This will ensure you are getting a nutrient rich diet.
Choose organic produce when possible to minimize pesticide exposure. If you’re on a budget, prioritize purchasing organic produce from the “dirty dozen” list that contains the highest amount of pesticide residues.
Fill your cart with lean proteins like fish, skinless poultry, beef, pork, or eggs
- Fish – 2 servings of fish per week is recommended, including salmon, tuna, or sardines
- Chicken or turkey – skinless chicken or turkey, in parts, whole, or ground is a great lean source of protein that is versatile for daily eating
- Beef – such ground beef that is 95% lean or greater, as well as lean cuts like round, top sirloin, and tenderloin can be enjoyed but limited to 2 servings per week
- Pork – not all pork is created equal, so lean cuts such as pork tenderloin can fit into your weekly routine
- Eggs – whole eggs, or conveniently boiled are good options
Choose grass-fed or pastured proteins when available and as your budget allows.
If you can tolerate dairy incorporating plain yogurt (it has less added sugar), cheese, or sour cream can fit into your daily routine
Beans, Nuts, Seeds
- Dried or canned beans like black beans, chickpeas, or cannellini beans are a great plant-based source of fiber.
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, flax, or chia seeds. These contain healthy fats and are a great snack to have on hand or as a smoothie add-in.
You can find healthy choices down the middle aisles, but stick to your shopping list. If you are strolling down the snack aisle with no real plan, it is easy to be tempted to buy these foods. Before you know it, you/ve bought twice the amount you intended to!
How Often To Go To The Store
Ideally, getting into a good system with planning meals means not having to go to the store as often. Make a list of recipes and what you’re going to make, check your pantry items, and then create your shopping list.
If this seems overwhelming start with a 3-4 day plan at a time. Once you get into a routine it will get easier.
A good system may be to do the bulk of your grocery shopping every 2 weeks but doing a smaller run once a week in between. This smaller run would include your perishable, staple items such produce that does not last as long.
Many produce items such as leafy greens, lettuce, and berries typically last only 3-5 days. Add these to your standard weekly grocery items list, however build in some frozen produce too for when you finish all of your fresh goods.
Where to Go Grocery Shopping
There are so many grocery store options out there, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Start with a local conventional grocery store for the bulk of your items. One that you know well makes it easier to find the items on your list.
If you’re looking for the highest quality produce and meat, check out your local health food store, or produce or farmer’s market. These smaller, local markets sell local products that are picked at their peak ripeness. Get to know the farmers in your area and ask them questions about how they grow their food so you know where it’s coming from.
The first step to creating lifestyle change is to adjust the way you grocery shop. Take small steps and focus on fresh foods. It may seem daunting at first but I promise it will get easier.