Beginners Guide to Healthy Grocery Shopping

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Grocery shopping can be a difficult task even for the most organized person. Health goals are offset by the many tempting and unhealthy foods that seem to lurk in every aisle.

Your first defense against those temptations is a grocery list. A grocery list is a handy tool that can help you navigate the store with ease and help you stick to your healthy eating plan.

A well-thought-out grocery list is not only a memory aide, but it can also keep you on track, minimizing impulse buying while saving you money. This simple but important step to healthy grocery shopping will set you up for success even when you’re tight on time, helping you keep nutritious foods on hand to eat all week.

What’s more, studies have shown that using a list while grocery shopping can lead to healthier food choices and even weight loss. (1, 2)

The following tips will help you prepare a healthy grocery shopping list so you can fill your cart with smart choices.

Plan Ahead

Having the ingredients necessary to prepare tasty meals all week long is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet.

Having an empty fridge, freezer or pantry can lead you to rely on fast food or takeout, especially when you have a packed schedule. That’s why it’s so important to stock your shelves with nutritious options.

Studies have shown that people who plan their meals in advance have a healthier overall diet and lower body weight than those who don't. (3)

Plus, those who plan their meals ahead of time tend to cook more meals at home, a practice that has been linked to better diet quality and lower levels of body fat. (4)

Making a point of planning your meals for the week may help you to avoid making poor choices and help to create a grocery shopping list more efficiently.

An excellent way to start planning your meals is to create a recipe board detailing the meals you would like to eat for the week, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.

After figuring out what ingredients you will need to create your meals, add these to your grocery list, being sure to include the amount of each item you will need.

Keep a Running Grocery List

Rather than scrambling to remember which favorite pantry staple you recently ran out of, keep a running list of the items you need to buy during your next trip to the grocery store.

Dry erase boards or magnetic to-do lists that hang on your fridge are excellent ways to keep tabs on your kitchen inventory.

There are also many apps designed to help you stay on top of grocery shopping and meal planning.

Keeping track of the foods you use, as well as the new and healthy foods you want to try, will make compiling your weekly shopping list that much easier.

Summary: Meal planning is the first step to creating a healthy grocery shopping list. Creating a grocery list based on pre-planned meals will help you make nutritious dishes that fit your eating plan.

Be Realistic

When you’re creating a healthy grocery list, it’s important to be realistic about the foods you will actually consume. Although you may want to try lots of new and different foods when you’re first beginning a more nutritious way of eating, try to choose just a few new Healthy foods each week.

When you are grocery shopping without a list, it’s easy to become side-tracked by items that appeal to you. This may cause you to purchase more food than you can realistically consume in a week, or lead you to choose items that you should be eating but don’t necessarily like. This can lead to wasted food and less money in your wallet.

Choosing just a few new foods each week to incorporate into your meals is a good way to expand your palate, add nutrients and discover which healthy foods you really enjoy. For example, if you are trying to incorporate more green, leafy vegetables like kale, arugula and spinach into your diet but don’t know which ones you would like, try out one new leafy green each week until you narrow down a few favorites. This will allow you to sample new foods without the risk of wasting food and money.

Before you know it, you will be able to create a fresh grocery list every week, filled with nutritious foods that you love to eat.

Summary: When you’re trying out new foods, try incorporating one or two new ingredients each week to help you identify items that you truly like to eat. Introducing new foods gradually will also save you from wasting food and money.

Organize Your List

Separating your grocery shopping list by category is an excellent way to save time and keep your shopping trips stress-free. You can organize your list by food category or how your favorite grocery store is laid out. Organizing your list into sections helps you shop in a more efficient manner and minimizes the chances of impulse buying. This type of list keeps you on task and focused on the items you’ve planned, rather than distracted by the endless unhealthy foods on the grocery shelves.

To start, divide your list into sections based on food types. Categories include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Healthy fats
  • Dairy or non-dairy products
  • Condiments
  • Beverages* 

If you are trying to cut back on snacking or don’t want to keep sweets in the house, avoid creating space on your list for snacks or desserts.

Try to include only healthy categories on your list so that your focus is only on wholesome, nutrient-dense foods.

If you are familiar with your grocery store’s layout, try separating your list based on the sections where your foods are located. For example, if you usually begin your shopping trip in the produce aisle, list your fruits and vegetables first. This way, you can streamline your shopping trip and avoid having to circle back to a particular section. This also narrows the chances of being tempted by unhealthy items while you’re wandering around the grocery store in search of foods on your list.

However, you decide to organize your shopping list, make sure you organize it by what makes sense to you in order to simplify your shopping. For example, you may think of an avocado as a source of healthy fat, but since it is technically a fruit you will find it in the produce section of the grocery store. No matter what shopping list format you decide on, just make sure it suits your needs and makes sense to you so you can have a stress-free shopping experience.

Summary: Organizing your grocery shopping list into categories can help you stay on task, saving you time and keeping you from making unhealthy choices.

Focus on Healthy Items

When preparing your grocery list, try to focus on foods that are healthy and nourishing. This can be challenging, especially for those who have recently started a healthier eating plan.

Grocery shopping lists are a helpful way to reduce your chances of purchasing unhealthy foods that can cause you to gain weight and sabotage your goals. Before your shopping trip, ensure that your list is organized into sections and includes all the items you will need to create healthy meals for the days to come.

If you know that certain sections of the grocery store are tempting, such as the bakery or the candy aisle, it may be a good idea to steer clear of those areas entirely.

Try Perimeter Shopping

Perimeter shopping is a great way to emphasize fresh foods while minimizing your exposure to packaged and processed items. The perimeter of most grocery stores usually includes fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and dairy.

Though interior grocery aisles include many healthy options, such as canned and dried beans, grains, spices and olive oil, this is also where most grocery chains stock highly processed foods like candy, soda and chips. Minimizing your time in the interior of the grocery store can reduce your exposure to these unhealthy foods, reducing your chances of being tempted to purchase them.

The intake of highly processed food has been linked to obesity and chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, so minimizing your intake is important for maintaining your health and keeping off excess weight. (5, 6)

Making a point to fill your list with mostly whole, unprocessed foods from the perimeter of the grocery store can help you incorporate more healthy foods into your diet.

Summary: To avoid buying items that aren't good for you, stick to purchasing only the items included on your shopping list and focus on foods located on the perimeter of the store.

Stick to the Plan

Grocery stores are designed to get shoppers to spend money, whether it’s on healthy or unhealth foods. To avoid temptation, go into the grocery store armed with a plan to eat healthy and buy only the foods on your list.

In-store advertisements and weekly flyers promoting coupons and discounted items may have a strong impact on the foods you choose to purchase. Unfortunately, some grocery stores tend to emphasize packaged foods rather than fresh produce in their promotions. (7)

That’s one reason why starting your shopping trip with a well-thought-out shopping list is important. Sticking to your list can decrease your chances of impulsively buying unhealthy foods or purchasing something you won’t use just because it’s on sale.

However, it’s still very easy to get sidetracked by eye-catching displays and deep discounts. If you are drawn in by a sale item or fancy food display, take the time to ask yourself if the item fits into your meal plan and remind yourself of your healthy grocery list.

Summary: Making a nutritious and tasty grocery list before your shopping trip and resolving to purchase only the foods on it may help you stick to your healthy eating plan and avoid being drawn in by advertisements and sales.

Healthy Examples to Get You Started

When adding items to your grocery list, it’s best to emphasize fresh, whole foods.

Though having a treat now and then is perfectly normal and healthy, keep sweets and snack foods to a minimum when creating your shopping list. Eating highly processed foods like sugary cereals, candy, soda, chips and baked goods too often can offset your weight loss goals and cause you to gain pounds. (8)

Here are some examples of healthy, nutritious foods that deserve a spot in your cart

Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, beets, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, carrots, bell peppers, spinach, kale, arugula, mixed greens, radishes, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms.

Fruits: Berries, bananas, apples, grapes, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, pears, cherries, pineapple, pomegranate, kiwis, mangoes.

Proteins: Eggs, shrimp, fish, chicken, fresh turkey breast, tofu, bison, beef.

Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, oats, butternut squash, quinoa, brown rice, beans, lentils, chia seeds, buckwheat, barley, whole grain bread.

Healthy fats: Olives, olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, coconut, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini, pesto, ground flaxseeds.

Dairy and non-dairy products: Greek yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, almond milk, coconut milk, goat cheese, kefir, unsweetened milk.

Condiments: Salsa, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, spices, herbs, stone-ground mustard, horseradish, nutritional yeast, sauerkraut, hot sauce, raw honey, stevia.

Beverages: Unsweetened seltzer, sparkling water, green tea, coffee, ginger tea, unsweetened iced tea.

These are just some examples of the many healthy, delicious foods you can add to your shopping list.

Summary: There are many healthy foods you can add to a nutritious grocery list. Adding mostly whole, unprocessed foods to your diet will help you get healthier and reach your nutrition goals.

Bottom Line:

Grocery shopping doesn't have to be complicated.

Using a shopping list to guide you through the grocery store is an excellent way to stick to your nutrition goals.

Plus, preparing a meal plan and shopping list can save you time and money.

Given its potential benefits, creating a healthy grocery shopping list should be at the top of your to-do list.

 

Stop Dieting & Start Eating 

Did you ever sit back and wonder why even though more people are dieting and exercising today than at any other time in history we’re actually getting fatter and sicker as a result and not leaner and healthier?

 

 

ABOUT TONY BEDNAROWSKI

“Our body is biology not math. That’s why when I hear things like a “calorie is a calorie” or it’s all about “calories in vs. calories out” I shake my head knowing that the human body is much more complex than a simple math equation”. — Coach Tony

Tony’s introduction into the world of health and fitness began in the summer of 1969 at the very early age of 8. He says “I can remember (like it was yesterday) picking up my first copy of Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine, which is now known as Muscle & Fitness” and being completely enthralled by muscles. “I would literally fantasize about having muscles like the men in that magazine”. As he journeyed through life, those thoughts never left his mind. This was Tony’s beginning of what would become a lifelong journey into the world of fitness and nutrition.

Over the following four decades Tony has spent his time in the health and fitness industry as a competitive athlete, trainer, nutrition coach, educator, speaker, publisher and author.

In his competitive years, Tony became fascinated, biologically, with how nutrition and the foods we consumed had a profound effect on performance, body composition and over-all blood chemistry, as well as, state of mind. “These laws governed by the food /body relationship were completely different from what I had been taught about conventional mainstream nutrition”.

Over the past 30 years Tony has devoted his time to educating, coaching and mentoring people to take charge of their own health’s destiny.

He says “As we continue to listen to outdated nutritional advice, it’s clearly evident that our approach has completely missed the mark proven by the fact that society is getting bigger and sicker as a result, not leaner and healthier”.

Tony has been a dedicated writer, blogger and educator, and has spent time writing for several publications and national websites as a health advocate on topics including nutrition, fitness, chronic disease prevention and personal 

Coach Tony – CNS, CMT

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