This Dietitian-Approved Grocery List Will Ensure You’re Stocked With Healthy and Versatile Foods
By Emily Laurence,2023-02-07
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There are a few guaranteed times when even the best intentions of eating healthy fall by the wayside: you’re stressed, you’re starving and need something ASAP, or you don’t have what you need to make a healthy meal.
Avoiding all three of these pitfalls comes down to being prepared—and that all starts with a grocery list full of foods that are not only nutrient-rich, but also ones you actually like to eat and versatile enough to be integrated into your diet in different ways. Oh, and having some healthy ready-to-eat items too, for when you’re pressed for time.
If you want to shop like a registered dietitian, bookmark or print this article out. With input from two top dietitians, this grocery list is broken up into different sections, listing the healthiest options in each.
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The Healthiest Grocery Shopping List, According to Dietitians
What would a healthy grocery shopping list be without fruits and veggies? “In an ideal world, produce is the bulk of your shopping cart,” says registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam, RDN . “Produce gives the most nutritional bang for our buck, filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.”
All fruits and vegetables have nutritional value, so this is the part of the grocery store where you can really go wild, adding to your cart whatever foods you like the most. Registered dietitian and From Burnout to Balance author Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN , offers up a list of a few super nutrient-rich, versatile options if you aren’t sure where to start:
- Leafy greens: “Green leafy vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense, rich in an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and K,” Bannan says. They can also be added to almost any dish.
- Mushrooms: Bannan explains that this veggie has selenium, B vitamins and vitamin D , which supports immune health.
- Citrus fruits: “Citrus fruits contain an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you healthy, including fiber, potassium and vitamin C ,” Bannan shares.
- Berries: Bannan says that berries are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants to support brain health and reduce inflammation. They’re also easy to grab, wash and eat whenever you’re craving something sweet.
Both dietitians say that frozen or canned produce can be just as healthy as fresh produce, so if that works better for your budget or you’re worried you won’t eat the fresh produce you’re eyeing before it will go bad, go for these options, which are often less expensive and last longer.
Related: These Are the 20 Healthiest Vegetables of All Time, According to Registered Dietitians
Even if you eat meat, Bannan recommends filling your cart with protein options that are a mix of both plant and lean animal sources. “Like produce, these don’t always have to be fresh either,” she says. Below is a list of both animal proteins and plant-based proteins both dietitians recommend:
- Lean meat: Bannan says to choose lean proteins (like skinless chicken and lean beef) over ones high in saturated fat (like pork ) or ones that are overly processed (like hot dogs ). Especially when it comes to animal products, Meshulam says that quality matters. “Look for the words organic or humanely raised, as these indicate a healthier animal,” she suggests.
- Eggs: Both dietitians recommend eggs because, in addition to protein, they’re a great source of unsaturated fats and vitamin D.
- Seafood: Both dietitians say that seafood is a great protein to go for, high in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re on a budget, both recommend canned tuna or seafood pouches, which are less expensive and still have the same benefits as fresh or frozen seafood.
- Beans, tofu and edamame: Meshulum says she recommends whole food plant proteins instead of the meat-substitute products in the frozen food section. “They tend to have long ingredient lists and include many inflammatory oils and added sugars,” she says. “Instead, focus on real plant-based foods that are protein-rich on their own.”
- Nuts and seeds: If you’re a snacker, Bannan recommends picking up some nuts and seeds for an easy, quick hit of protein when you need it.
- Quinoa, millet, buckwheat and farro: Many people overlook grains when they’re shopping for proteins, but Bannan says they are a healthy option to go for—and also high in fiber.
Related: Looking to Add More Protein To Your Diet? Skip the Burger and Consider These High-Protein Foods Instead.
Pasta and bread
The pasta and bread aisles can be confusing because there are so many options. Should you go for whole wheat pasta or lentil pasta? Whole wheat bread or multigrain? Below is the list to stick to for the most nutrient-rich picks:
- Whole grain, lentil, bean, chickpea or edamame pasta: The dietitians say that these are all healthy options, high in both protein and fiber. Go for the one you like the taste of the best!
- Whole grain bread, whole wheat sourdough or sprouted grain bread: Meshulam says that these three bread options are the most nutrient-rich. “The sprouted grain means that the bread is easier to digest and the nutrients are more bioavailable. Sourdough is also great as it breaks down the gluten a bit and can be easier on our stomachs,” she explains.
Related: Seriously, What's the Deal With Ezekiel Bread and Is It Even Good for You?
If you’re a cheese lover, Bannan suggests going for options that are higher in protein and lower in sodium for the most nutrient-rich cheeses. And if you drink cow’s milk, Meshulam says that’s great; no need to go for an alternative milk. “As long as your body tolerates dairy well, then it can totally be part of a nutritious diet,” she explains.
- Cow’s milk: Similar to other animal products, Meshulam says to choose organic, grass-fed milk (and other dairy products) if your budget allows, as it will be both more humane to the animals and more nutrient-rich.
- Unsweetened yogurt: “When it comes to dairy products, unsweetened is always the best,” Meshulam explains. “If you are buying a Greek yogurt, look for a plain option and sweeten it yourself with fruit or cinnamon .”
- Cottage cheese: Both dietitians recommend cottage cheese because it’s high in protein, which will keep you full for longer.
- Full-fat cheese: “For [cheese], fat-free or skim is actually not the best choice. The fat in dairy helps with satiety and tastes better, meaning we tend to need less to satisfy us. Lots of research actually points to full-fat dairy being better for our hormones, so skip the skim!” Meshulam says.
Snacks and desserts
You don’t have to avoid the chip aisle or ice cream section completely. “I actually recommend keeping some sweets in your house,” Meshulam admits. “If you have nothing around, it creates a scarcity mindset and you are more likely to overdo it when you are around sweets. However, if you are used to having some options at home, you will be able to be more mindful when having dessert as you know you can always have more another time.” Stick with the below picks for healthy ready-to-eat options:
- Bean or lentil chips: Bannan recommends chips made from beans or lentils over potato chips because they’re higher in protein and fiber, which will make them more satiating.
- Popcorn: Both dietitians love this as a high-fiber snack. Just be sure to go for one that isn’t loaded with butter or oils.
- Cheese crisps: “I love Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps ,” Meshulam says. “They provide you with the crunch of a chip, but are made with 100% real cheese, meaning you get to satisfy your salty craving but also get the benefit of a good source of protein to fuel you.”
- Individually portioned ice cream: If you have a sweet tooth, Meshulam suggests looking for desserts that are pre-portioned, like an ice cream bar. “ Chloe’s pops and Dream pops are two of my favorites. They are made with wholesome, real ingredients and will help satisfy that sweet tooth,” she shares.
Next up, see a list of 100 different eating plans that can help with weight loss.
- Marissa Meshulam, RDN , registered dietitian and nutritionist
- Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN , registered dietitian and From Burnout to Balance author
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