Grocery Shopping 101
Ok, first things first. Let me say how excited I am to be invited as nutrition contributor for the Bobbie Knows blog this month! My sweet friend, Libby Boeck happens to be co-founder of the apparel company which promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle through fun and humor.
Let's talk nutrition.
As a dietitian, I do not believe there is one perfect diet. However, I do believe balance and moderation are crucial for the success of any healthy eating plan. Today, I am sharing a list of my most frequent grocery purchases, as well as a few tips for Bobbie's readers. This does not have to serve as a meal plan nor is it affiliated with any one particular diet. It is simply to guide those looking for a new perspective on healthy eating. I always strive for a diet high in whole foods; that is, foods that are unprocessed and refined as little as possible.
I usually cook 2-3 meals per week and make an effort to try at least one new recipe. I do the bulk of my grocery shopping on Sundays and prepare my meals between Sunday and Tuesday. My motivation for cooking diminishes at the week's half-way mark and eating leftovers for a few days is just fine with me! I also vacuum-seal and freeze prepared meals that I can use as needed. I appreciate the variety that new recipes offer but I also like having a static list of foods that I know will work for me.
Grainsfresh sourdough bread or Ezekiel Sprouted grain bread
old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
Proteinorganic boneless skinless chicken breast
almonds, roasted or raw.
pistachios, roasted in-shell.
walnuts, roasted or raw.
fresh ground peanut butter
unsweetened almond or coconut milk (I limit to 1 since I also use dairy milk)
organic red bell peppers
organic cherry tomatoes
organic mixed greens or spinach
red and yellow onion
canned black beans
organic baby carrots
frozen vegetables (soup or stir-fry blends, organic edamame or lima beans)
organic Honeycrisp apples
organic strawberries/blueberries/raspberries/blackberries (limit to 1 or 2 when out of season)
watermelon ( in season only)
organic peaches/apricots ( in season only)
pineapple ( in season only)
organic grapes (in season)
Dairyorganic 2% milk - Organic Valley brand
0-2% Greek yogurt. - Chobani and FAGE brands
Brown Cow regular cream-top yogurt
Aged cheese - Murray's Reggiano and Merlot Bellavitano
tea bags for brewing
organic coffee - I usually go for local brands out of the bulk bin section of the grocery
hummus with no preservatives - Grandma's Humus
- Follow the "dirty dozen" and "clean 15" rules when determining which produce should be purchased as organic. The EWG has a helpful app for shoppers. Informed choices equal savvy shopping!
- If it fits in your budget, choose organic meat and dairy. Look for brands that also use grass-fed cows.
- Opt for sustainable seafood. The NOAA and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch groups are useful resources when making these purchases. The Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay provides up-to-date recommendations for restaurants and stores in your area that serve ocean-friendly seafood.
- Choose meatless protein sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, hemp, quinoa, and brown rice. Ezekiel bread is another excellent choice. These foods have a considerably lower carbon foot print compared with meat, cheese, and eggs.
- Make your own vinaigrette by whisking your preferred acid and heart-healthy oil. Walnut, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and macadamia nut are all healthy oils. Try lemon juice, red wine vinegar, roasted fruit drippings, white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or balsamic vinegar for your acid.
- Hydrate! Add slices of fresh citrus fruit to your water or freeze berries in ice cubes for natural flavor. Choose teas that are low in caffeine. Hibiscus tea can help lower blood pressure and green teas combat inflammation.
- Limit empty calorie foods and those with added sugars as much as possible. Visit gov for estimated intakes by gender and age.
- Try whole-kernel or sprouted grains. Examples of whole-kernel grains include wild rice, popcorn, quinoa, and whole-wheat berries. Labels on flours should also read "whole grain" that will at least ensure a more complete nutrition profile as opposed to white flour. If you must go gluten-free, choose wheat-free starches in whole form (brown rice or potatoes) vs. foods that have been pulverized into flour form. Nut or seed meals could be used in lieu of flours for baking.
- Lowfat chocolate milk can be used as a delicious recovery drink after running. I prefer the 8 oz cartons by Organic Valley and Horizon for convenience. Avoid excess consumption since this does contain added sugar.
- Be adventurous with your greens! Kale and spinach will work in soups, smoothies, sautees, egg scrambles, and salads. Freezing or sauteing kale will help with the bitterness.
- Keep fruit that requires minimal prep. Apples, mandarin oranges, bananas, and pears are easy to throw in your bag. Frozen grapes are the perfect snack during those hot summer months.
- Select yogurts that list specific probiotic strains on their label. Swirl plain, reduced-fat greek yogurt with raw honey and mixed berries for a satisfying breakfast or snack. The FAGE Total 2% greek serves as a great recipe substitute for mayo, sour cream, ricotta cheese, and cream cheese.
- Eggs: they go with EVERYTHING. Apparently the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is easing up on the egg restrictions so we can all celebrate!
- Frozen and canned vegetables are easy and affordable recipe additions. Rinse canned goods under water before cooking and select those that read "BPA-free" on the label.
- Think raw honey, unsweetened fluid milk, and coconut oil to flavor your coffee.
General tips for grocery and meal planning:
- Choose healthy foods that you actually enjoy and work for your lifestyle. Following a diet simply because it's on trend may have a bigger impact on your bank account than overall health and nutrition.
- Make a list of your frequent grocery purchases and identify those healthy items that are adaptable for every meal. Convenience should not require reliance on processed foods.
- Rotate your grocery stores for product and brand variety.
- If you are experiencing burnout from cooking, leave 1-2 meals open per week for dining out with friends. Review the menu (and nutrition data if possible) in advance. Pre-selecting your menu option will prevent you from having to rely on willpower at the restaurant.
- Shop the bulk bin sections of your grocery. This is truly my favorite area to shop! Here you will find a variety of recipe additions and snack ideas. Name brand items are often priced less when purchased in bulk. Local suppliers may also stock their items in this section.
- Have a healthy list of convenient meal go-to's for those unforeseen weeks that leave little time for cooking. Identify near-by restaurants that offer healthy take-out and delivery options, keep several frozen meals on hand (I like the Amy's organic line), and utilize the ready-prepared/salad bar sections of your nearest grocer.
- Be REALISTIC with your recipe selection! Ask yourself, "how much time do I have this week for cooking?" or "is this Pinterest recipe reasonable for my schedule and skill set?" Avoid choosing recipes that you know will turn into three-hour projects!
- Have fun and stay positive! Recognize all of your nutrition achievements, big and small. Leave room for the other things in life that make you genuinely happy.
About the Author: Natalie King is a registered dietician at the VA North Texas Healthcare System. She is a fitness enthusiast and is passionate about helping individuals with specific nutrition needs to improve overall health and happiness.