Guidelines for Healthy Grocery Shopping

How to navigate the aisles and go home healthy

Closeup of arm holding hand basket at side

One of the best ways to make sure you’re eating healthy is to cook and prepare your own foods, but how do you know what to buy at the grocery store? How do you make the most nutritious choices?

The first step is to pay attention to what’s in your food. Read nutrition labels and pay attention to the salt, sugar and fat content. But most importantly, eat a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Plan Ahead

Hand with pen marking list

Success at the grocery store starts before you even walk through the door. Plan ahead and create a grocery list. Look up what produce is on sale at the grocery store or find fun, healthy recipe swaps. This will help shoppers stay on track, reduce impulse buys, and ultimately, continue their health goals by saving money and extra calories.

For inspirational recipes, check out government websites like the USDA’s myplate.gov. There are also hundreds of recipe websites that emphasize a whole foods-based diet for every budget and lifestyle.

Shop the Perimeter

profile of man pushing grocery cart

Most of the healthy foods you want to look for are located around the perimeter of the store. If time is of the essence, purchasing pre-cut veggies and fruits may be worth the extra cost. Look for fresh produce, low fat dairy, and lean protein. Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are found in the aisles. Lastly, for prepared or processed foods, look closely at labels. Cheeses, yogurts, crackers and other snacks are healthy in moderation.

Choose Wholesome Foods

Colorful vegetables on shelf

Most importantly, when making healthy decisions, choose whole foods – foods that have gone through little or no processing.

When visiting each section of the grocery store, look for these healthier choices:

  • Produce
    Think about eating the colors of the rainbow. Remember: eating a variety of fruits and vegetables increases vitamins and minerals intake. Also, look for produce that is in season. It is often lower in cost and on sale.
  • Breads, cereals and pasta
    Look for the least processed foods made from 100% whole wheat or whole grain sources. Vary the type of grain to change things up. Choose items like whole wheat breads, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat and rolled oats.
  • Meat, fish, and poultry
    Choose lean cuts of meat like turkey, chicken breast, egg whites or shrimp. Use cooking methods like steaming, baking and grilling to limit fat content. One serving of meat is about three ounces, or the size of a deck of cards.
  • Low-fat Dairy
    Milk, cheese, and yogurt for adults are best in moderation. Choose low-fat or fat-free options when possible.
  • Fat
    All fats are high in calories, but still necessary for a healthy diet. Choose fats like olive oil, canola oil or plant-based oils—they’re unsaturated and cholesterol-free. Limit saturated fats, like butter, lard or fat that comes from animals.  One serving of fat is approximately one teaspoon of oil or one tablespoon of salad dressing.
  • Frozen foods
    Frozen fruits and vegetables are a convenient way to eat healthy, especially for busy families. Choose spices, low calorie sauces or salad dressings to enhance the flavor.
    For prepared foods, look for products that are whole grain, low fat and high in fiber. Make sure to read those nutrition labels first!
  • Canned and dried foods
    Look for foods that are minimally processed. Canned fruits, vegetables, meats and beans are convenient to keep on hand for quick meals. Make sure these foods are sodium-free, packed in water or 100% juice.

For more information about how to eat healthy or kick start your weight loss goals, please visit Health Risk Management or call at 512-901-4540.