Must-Have Items for Your Grocery List

By Luke Pearce, B.Sc. Biology, PN-1, NASM-CPT
Inner Element Fitness Lead Nutritionist

Whether you are shopping for yourself or your family, what should you put on your list to come home with bags of groceries that will let you prepare delicious and nutritious meals, without busting your food budget? While there is no one item that is “best” to eat, my recommendation is to focus more on maintaining a varied and balanced diet, along with a regular exercise program. The health part of the equation will just fall into place from there.

You should look forward to eating because the food tastes good and gives your body the nutrients needed to maintain health and energy. It should not be a time when you deprive yourself because you are on a particular diet.

What I Put in My Grocery Cart

The best way to explain what should go in your grocery cart is to give you a peek into mine. Of course, you will not see processed foods, snack items, or sodas, but I do have a few staples that are high in nutrients and healthy benefits. They also give me a lot of cooking flexibility. An added benefit is that buying a lot of high-value items makes my cart look full, so I am less likely to be distracted by those unhealthy choices.

  • Proteins: You might be surprised to see that I always have some type of protein in my grocery basket. I love having plenty of chicken, steak or ground beef, fish/seafood and ground turkey on hand, so I can pull something out and have the beginnings of a tasty meal. It can really be boring to focus on just one protein all the time, so I purposely try to keep my options open and have a little fun. During the course ofa week, for example, I might make Buffalo chicken, BBQ chicken, steak, burger patties, or turkey meatballs, depending on what I am in the mood to eat.
  • Dairy: Again, it might be a little startling to see that I have both whole eggs and egg whites in my cart, along with some Greek yogurt.
  • Frozen:While fresh is always better in season, I will buy bags of frozen fruit and frozen vegetables to make sure I keep my options open. Another item that might astonish you is that I love finely shredded, frozen hash browns. For me, this falls under the category of getting a lot of bang for the calories. These little gems are surprisingly nutritious, without adding greatly to your caloric intake.
  • Fresh: You definitely want to knock yourself out in the produce aisle with fresh veggies, sweet potatoes and regular/red potatoes, Jasmine rice, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans. Check your mushrooms and onion supply for extra flavoring potential. A spring salad mix is great for a quick meal.
  • Healthy fats:Nuts, seeds and avocados can be a good way of getting healthy fats, especially if you are eating a lot of lean cuts at meals. If you have egg whites for breakfast, lean chicken for lunch, and fish with rice for supper, you are not getting any fat in your diet, and you actually need to have a little to maintain a healthy balance.

One great way to add variety is to keep the flavors interesting. For the proteins you can use a dry rub or sugar-free sauces. To make the best choice, be sure to read the nutrition label so you can compare and justify the fat, carbs and proteins against the caloric intake, taste and texture. For our Texas barbeque needs, I personally like the taste and texture of G Hughes Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce and Walden Farms Calorie Free Barbeque Sauce.

If you want more grocery cart ideas, WebMD has great overall suggestions, Greatist has ideas on creating a grocery list when cooking for one, and here is a $50 grocery list for an entire week of healthy eating.

What Should You Eat Every Day?

You should get some type of fiber every day – either from your vegetables or a fiber supplement if you are not into veggies. If you enjoy fish, it is good to eat one to three portions per week because it has a lot of those important micronutrients. It is not necessary to completely shy away from red meat; just eat it in moderation. It may be a little higher in fat, but it is also higher in that crucial nutrient content. Meats have a complete amino acid profile, along with B-12 and creatinine for lean muscle mass. If you are on a strict vegetarian diet, however, you might need supplements to provide your body with the amino acids and nutrients it needs to function properly.

What Foods Are Helpful for Weight Loss?

By its very definition, weight loss is a calorie deficit, which can lead to lower amounts of energy. In this case, it is particularly important to get the most nutritional bang per calorie. Read labels carefully to make sure you are getting the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals from what you eat. Some people have found that B-12 injections are helpful for boosting energy levels if they do not receive sufficient amounts from their diet. Verywellfit has a grocery list to help in weight loss.

Having a healthy grocery cart is important for everyone as part of living a total healthy lifestyle. Make smart choices that give you plenty of cooking options while helping to maintain your overall health. Ready to get on track? Ask me for help defining goals and designing a personalized nutritional plan to help you achieve those goals.

DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision. 

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