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How to Grocery Shop (the Healthy Way)

By October 19, 2016Eat, Nutrition

Your guide to healthy grocery shopping.

I am a fitstagrammer (@healthycait). Yes, I’m one of those annoying people that posts pictures of every bite I put in my mouth. I post pictures of my healthier recipes and food finds, and lots of people ask me questions about how I decide what to eat and buy. Mostly, the questions relate to grocery shopping.

“What do I need to look for when I get groceries? What do I buy? Is it hard? Doesn’t it take a lot of time?”

Grocery stores are full of options – healthy and not so healthy – and that can be seriously overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. This is my personal healthy grocery shopping cheat sheet. I hope it makes your grocery shopping experiences healthier and less stressful!

Love having a fridge full of healthy, delicious food πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘Œ #groceries #healthnut

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Where to look:

One of my best pieces of advice when it comes to healthier grocery shopping is to try and stay near the outer perimeter of the store. In other words, stay out of the center aisles as much as you can because you will find a lot more processed food than fresh produce, meat, and dairy there. 

What to buy:

When I’m grocery shopping, I know it’s important to get enough ingredients of all the different food groups so I can make actual whole meals for the week. That means some good sources of protein, some carbs/grains, and some healthy fats, not to mention a lot of fresh produce. I get some healthier convenience foods for quick and healthy snacking, too.

These are the main groups to keep in mind, and some of my favorite food picks for a balanced diet. 

Meat: 

1. Chicken: For easy prep for stir-fry, salad, or fajitas, I buy trimmed and ready chicken breast tenderloins.

2. Ground beef: I shoot for 96% lean, 4% fat. I think it tastes great as burgers, meatloaf, or taco meat.

3. Ground turkey: I love turkey burgers! Don’t knock them until you try them. Pick up some 97 or 99% lean ground turkey meat. It’s actually higher in protein than chicken or beef per 4 oz. serving. 

4. Turkey bacon, turkey sausage, and turkey pepperoni are all simple substitutions. Substitute turkey options for pork sausage and bacon to cut down on fat and, in many cases, sodium. Even try turkey pepperoni on your homemade pizza. It’s less greasy, but still super delicious. 

5. Tuna: Use canned tuna to make tuna salad for a great quick lunch. It can be a little high in sodium, but is very tasty and high in protein. 

6. Fish: Buy any kind of frozen lean fish or shrimp you like and throw it on top of salads or alongside some roasted veggies for an easy meal. Salmon and tilapia are great options. Look for fresh caught and frozen to avoid excessive handling or processing.

Dairy/dairy alternatives:  

1. Plain old milk: Try 1% or skim milk for a punch of protein and calcium without a lot of extra fat.

2. Almond milk: This is my absolute favorite. It’s a little sweet, even if you buy unsweetened, and super creamy. It’s great for cereal and smoothies, and a great option for anyone who’s lactose intolerant.

3. Cheese: Part-skim shredded cheese is great for melting on pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches. Individually-wrapped cheese wedges and cheese sticks are great for snacking. You get calcium, protein, and flavor with a little less fat.

4. Eggs: Eggs are full of protein and can be prepared a million ways, so you never get bored.

5. Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is typically much lower in sugar than regular yogurt and has more than 10 grams of protein per serving, so it should be more satisfying, too. Try different Greek yogurt brands until you find what you really like – they’re all a little different!

Afternoon snack… @siggisdairy vanilla & cardamom yogurt with some frozen raspberries on top… Yum yum πŸ˜πŸ’•

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 Whole grains/carbs: 

1. Oats: Oatmeal is a good source of fiber and makes a great breakfast or snack. I like to buy quick oats, since they cook, well, quickly. I top them with all kinds of fruit and peanut butter or nuts to make them extra filling. But if you buy the rolled kind and leave them in the fridge overnight, you’ll get “cooked” oats with no actual cooking required! 

2. Bread: Look for 100% whole wheat to get the most fiber and nutrients out of your toast. Try topping with some low fat cream cheese and fresh fruit. 

Toast Thursday? πŸ˜‹πŸ“

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3. Tortillas: Go for corn or 100% whole wheat flour tortillas. They’re great for tacos, wraps, and individual pizza crusts. 

4. Quinoa: Another one of those weird foods you need to try and a more interesting alternative to rice. It tastes a little nutty and is full of complete protein and complex carbs our bodies need.

5. Rice: Brown rice is a great alternative to white. It does take longer to cook, though, so keep that in mind! It is another complex carbohydrate source, so it helps keep you full longer than more processed carbs and is full of fiber to aid digestion. You can also buy instant and quick-cooking varieties if you’re short on time.

6. Sweet potatoes: These stunners provide complex carbohydrates and serve as a great source of potassium and vitamin A. They are especially delicious roasted, but if you’re short on time or live in a dorm, you can also microwave them for a quick fix. 

7. Rice cakes: They can be a little boring on their own, but if you top them with nut butter or avocado, they’re absolutely delicious, and make for a great snack. 

Today's rice cake creation 😍 this is a chocolate crunch Quaker rice cake topped with Chocolate PB2, which is another one of my favorite products! PB2 is a peanut butter powder that you simply mix with water and it basically turns into a peanut butter. It has an awesome peanut flavor, and has significantly less calories and fat than regular peanut butter. It contains only 45 calories and 1 gram of fat per 2 tablespoons! I'm all about eating regular peanut butter but if I am wanting more than a tablespoon I will choose PB2… Like today I put four tablespoons of it on my rice cake for only 90 calories and 2 grams of fat! Plus it has 4 grams of protein per 2 tbsp. You can find it at Walmart by the peanut butter! I love the regular flavor, but I am partial to the chocolate πŸ˜‰ I spread the PB2 peanut butter on the rice cake and topped it with a few pinches of granola, mini chocolate chips, raspberries, and honey drizzle 😍😍

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Healthy fats: 

1. Nuts: Any kinds of nuts are a great source of healthy fats. Just find a kind (or multiple kinds) you like and enjoy as a snack or for some crunch on top of salads, oatmeal, toast, and/or yogurt. Switch up the kinds you eat to get a wider variety of nutrients.

2. Nut butter: Try almond or cashew butter in addition to your usual peanut butter for a change of pace. There are so many different kinds, and they’re all a good way to add protein and flavor to your life.

3. Avocados: Make avocado toast while it’s still trendy, add a few slices to your sandwich for a creamy texture, or top your tacos with guacamole. Take it to a different level and try avocado on your eggs! This awesome superfood is a great way to get in healthy fats.

4. Olive oil: Olive oil is versatile – it can be used for cooking almost every meal – and its healthy fat makes it good for you. You can cook your veggies with it, use it as a salad dressing, and marinate meat in it.

Produce: 

Buying produce is really just picking and choosing what you like and in season. Fresh and frozen produce are similar in health benefits, so it’s really just a matter of deciding what you prefer from both a taste and cost perspective. 

I keep spinach and an assortment of berries in my fridge at all times. I also keep onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes on hand to sautΓ© in olive oil. Try mixing spinach with your regular lettuce salads for an extra boost of nutrients and hardly any change in flavor. Fill your cart up with a variety of fruits and veggies – you can’t go wrong!

Miscellaneous:

Here are a few of my other favorites.

  • Balsamic vinegar: Mix it with olive oil for a simple, delicious salad dressing.
  • Unsweetened tea: A cup of tea makes a cozy, no-sugar way to unwind, keep warm and hydrated.
  • Dark chocolate: Yeah, chocolate is good for you! The darker, the better. Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate and is full of healthy fats and iron.
  • Hummus: Need help eating extra veggies? Add some hummus. It’s perfect to dip carrots, tomatoes, or celery in. Try different flavors to find what you like.

There are a lot of options here, so play around until you find what works for you. Hopefully these grocery suggestions and tips will assist in helping you make healthy decisions, so happy shopping! 

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Author Caitlin Whitmire

Caitlin is a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas studying Dietetics. She is from a little town in Arkansas called Strawberry. Caitlin is in the process of becoming Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Certified. She enjoys cooking, baking, and anything outdoors. Instagram: healthycait

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