If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle and fill your diet with as many nutrient-dense foods as possible, navigating the grocery aisles can be stressful — especially when you’re surrounded by tons of tempting treats! On top of that, you’re faced with the challenge of deciphering which products are actually healthy (those sneaky marketing tactics, though). But with a little know-how, healthy grocery shopping can be a breeze. So, to make your experience super simple, we’re giving you the best Registered Dietitian-approved healthy grocery shopping tips and must-have grocery staples!
Top Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips
Healthy eating starts with having the right foods. If you’re trying to whip up a good-for-you meal, having nutritious foods at your fingertips certainly makes your quest so much easier, don’t you think?
Instead of running into the grocery store and winging it, plan ahead and follow these tips. You’ll fill your cart with some tasty nutrient-dense options and avoid those tempting impulse buys — it’s a win-win!
#1 Have a Shopping List Made Before You Go, And Stick With It
Have you ever gone shopping and tossed a bunch of items in your cart, only to get home and realize you’re still lacking enough ingredients to make a healthy meal?
Preparing a grocery list that contains ingredients needed for healthy meals can help avoid this. You’ll comb the aisles with ease, load up on nutritious and useful foods, and avoid less-nutritious impulsive buys that are not on your list.
RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning
#2 Don’t Go Shopping On an Empty Stomach
When it comes to healthy grocery shopping tips, keep this in mind: heading to the grocery store on an empty stomach is asking for trouble! You’ll likely end up grabbing higher-calorie, less nutritious foods, and anything that sounds good (without thinking rationally). If your tummy is grumbling, enjoying a nutritious snack before you head out to the store can hold you over while you’re grocery shopping and may help you stick to your list and avoid loading up on unnecessary goodies.
Some delicious balanced snack ideas include a hard-boiled egg with a handful of almonds and a half of a banana or a cup of unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and a drizzle of honey.
#3 Explore The Frozen Foods Aisle
Don’t be afraid to lean on some frozen foods, especially if you are craving items that are not in season. Frozen foods can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and at times, can be much more economical.
#4 Skip the Tempting Spots of the Grocery Store
If you know that you can’t resist cookies or salty snacks, plan on avoiding those aisles completely, so you don’t get tempted. Shop the aisles that contain the better-for-you choices instead. Hint: the perimeter of the grocery store contains the most nutritious options!
As an RD, These Are The Foods I Always Have on My Grocery List
As a Registered Dietitian, I always have healthy food options in my grocery cart. While I love to diversify my diet and enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense foods, there are some superstar superfoods that have a permanent spot in my kitchen.
Here’s what a typical RD-approved grocery cart looks like:
Fruits and veggies are loaded with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that help keep bodies healthy and functioning. Although I like to eat the rainbow and keep a variety of fruits and vegetables on-hand, there are a few that are staples in my home:
Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are nutrient-packed fruits that are just as delicious as they are good for you. During the wintertime (when berries are not in season), leaning on frozen options helps keep this fruit stocked in my kitchen. Plus, frozen berries are just as nutritious (they’re picked at peak freshness and flash frozen) and are often cheaper!
Spinach is one of those go-to greens that always finds its way into my cart. It’s loaded with nutrients like iron and fiber, and since it’s virtually tasteless, adding spinach to dishes like pasta, salad, sandwiches, and even smoothies is a simple way to sneak in some extra veggies in your life.
Cauliflower is certainly having a moment, and for good reason. This cruciferous veggie is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And from cauliflower rice to roasted cauliflower and even cauliflower pizza, enjoying this veggie is delicious, easy, and something that happens a few times a week in my home.
Sneak some extra veggies into your week with this FitOn PRO Cauliflower Pizza recipe!
Protein is incredibly important when following a healthy lifestyle. It can speed exercise recovery, reduce the risk of injury, increase lean muscle, and help keep you satiated. While it’s great to switch it up, there are some options that I always keep on hand.
Oily fish like salmon contain DHA and EPA, which are omega-3 fatty acids and are incredibly important to our overall health. Including fatty fish twice a week, like salmon, helps meet the recommended intake of these nutrients in a delicious and convenient way.
One of the most versatile proteins out there, chicken breast is an easy and high-quality protein source that goes with just about any dish. And this protein freezes well, making it a nice addition to a freezer stash. Just defrost it on busy days when you can’t make it to the grocery store.
Beef is jam-packed with nutrients that many people are deficient in — think iron and zinc, as examples. Sticking with leaner cuts like flank steak provides high-quality protein along with these key nutrients.
And if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, we’ve got you covered with healthy grocery shopping tips for plant-based eaters! Here are some of the best plant-based protein sources (or plant-based protein combos) to add to your shopping cart — these plant-based foods are chocked full of protein and contain all the essential amino acids!
Quinoa: 8 grams of protein per cup.
Buckwheat: 6 grams of protein per cup.
Hemp Seeds: 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons.
Rice & Beans: about 8 grams of protein per cup — opt for white or brown rice, and varieties of beans such as lentils, chickpeas, or black beans.
RELATED: Complete VS Incomplete Protein: What’s the Difference?
Grains are a staple in my home because they contain high-quality carbs to help support energy levels. Opting for whole grains or grains that are free from refined sugar is always the way to go. Remember: marketing tactics can be sneaky! Always read the ingredient label to watch out for hidden ingredients.
As a side dish, in tacos, and used as a stand-in for oatmeal in the morning, quinoa finds its way in many healthy dishes. Packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and antioxidants, this gluten-free grain is always a winner.
Cooking up some chickpea pasta helps get dinner on the table in minutes. And slurping up some chickpea noodles packs some impressive nutrients like fiber, plant-based protein, and B vitamins.
Sure, oats make for an easy-prep breakfast that is totally satisfying (we love a warming bowl of oatmeal or some tasty overnight oats), but oats aren’t just for breakfast! They can also be added to smoothies for a nutrient boost, baked goods as a healthier flour alternative, and savory dishes as a thickening agent.
Canned foods can be a simple staple to add to your pantry, so long as they are free of BPA lining. They are relatively cheap, have a long shelf life, and can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet! I go through some of the same canned goods more frequently than I would like to admit.
For a simple hack for adding flavor to rice, pasta, and other grains, swapping water for broth is the way to go. And during soup season, whipping up a broth-based soup is light and satisfying.
Shoppers preference here — reach for any type of bean as a wholesome protein source! Just be sure to avoid products with added oils, salt, or sugar. Some of our favorites include black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas — add them to salads, tacos, and other dishes that need a protein boost. And since beans are considered a vegetable too, enjoying them gives double the benefit.
Healthy Grocery Shopping Made Simple
Healthy grocery shopping is simple to do with a little pre-planning and strategizing. Having the right foods in mind when hitting the store and sticking to your list can help you stay on track with your health goals. The next time you head to the store, refer to these healthy grocery shopping tips and make sure you have a plan in place!