My friends often tell me that, whenever they go to the grocery store, they come back with about ten things they didn’t need and nothing they had originally planned on buying. Other prevalent complaints include how much they spend each shopping trip, and how they wish they could “eat healthy” like me. I think it’s kind of funny the way they say “eat healthy” like I am torturing myself or as if it is some big feat when I am really just eating foods I enjoy. I do not pretend to like kabocha squash or quinoa, you will not hear me spouting the wonders of tuna fish or beets, and I like to use Splenda instead of agave syrup or natural cane sugar to sweeten my morning coffee.
I think everyone’s idea of eating healthy is a little different. Some people tote “moderation” of certain foods, some enjoy artificial sweeteners as part of their diet, and some companies think “healthy kid” food includes mechanically separated chicken. While I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician (nor have I played one on TV) and will not pretend to tell you which healthy foods to eat or not eat, I can tell you that a healthy diet is comprised of a variety of foods that help meet your nutritional needs and nourish your body. After all, you are a product of what you eat, don’t eat, or eat too much of.
When composing a shopping list for healthy eating, think about more than just healthy foods to eat. If you don’t like grapefruit, you don’t have to eat it. Recognize, though, that some foods you didn’t like as a child you may like now. Also, just because you don’t like how a food is prepared one way, you may like it another way. I have a friend who thought she hated apples until recently because her family didn’t know how to choose them correctly. She thought apples were supposed to be mushy. When she tried one at my house that I had bought, however, she was astounded and delighted by the crispness and the juiciness of it.
Another example: my mother and I both enjoy tofu, but while she can eat it plain I think it’s bland and the texture puts me off. I’ll use it for pudding, in a smoothie, or bake or fry it after marinating but I won’t touch it otherwise. Think about the foods you enjoy when looking for healthy eating ideas, but if you find a recipe that sounds delicious and maybe includes a few foods you don’t know, also consider branching out your options to maybe one or two new foods a week.
If you’re having difficulty thinking which foods to include on your shopping list for healthy eating, first consider the advice of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store:
- Lowfat or nonfat milk or nondairy alternatives
- Lowfat or nonfat cottage cheese or yogurt (light, Greek, etc.)
- Lowfat or nonfat string cheese, shredded cheese, cheese slices
- Eggs or Egg Beaters
- Lean meats or low fat hot dogs
- Margarine or light buttery spreads, light cream cheese
- Tofu, seitan
- Apples, bananas, grapes, peaches, plums, berries (think of what’s in season—it’ll taste best!)
- Carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage, bell peppers, salad greens, radishes
- Mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant, summer and winter squash, sweet potatoes
But do not limit your healthy eating shopping list to only the outside of the aisles—there are healthy foods to eat within them, as well!
Dry Goods and Grains
- Quinoa , barley , oatmeal, couscous , whole wheat blend pasta
- Split peas , lentils , brown rice
- Whole grain cereals (hot or cold)
- Popcorn (look for the whole kernels and pop your own, or try the 94% fat free kinds)
- Various spices and herbs
- Whole wheat pastry flour , white whole wheat flour
- Olive oil , coconut oil , nonstick cooking spray
- Pure Vanilla Extract
- Nondairy milks
- Baking powder , baking soda , vinegar
- Out of season fruits and vegetables
- Ready-to-eat grains (such as oatmeal or brown rice bowls)
- Diced tomatoes , tomato paste , tomato sauce
- Tuna or canned chicken
- Canned vegetables (corn, peas, green beans, mixed, etc.)
- Canned fruit in juice or water (not syrup)
- Broth-based soups
- Chicken or vegetable broth
Obviously, this shopping list for healthy eating is inconclusive and can be tweaked according to one’s diet. If you are planning a week of family friendly vegetarian dinner nights, your healthy eating guide for the week probably won’t include seafood on your healthy eating shopping list and if you need to gain weight you probably don’t need to eat the low-calorie or light version of a bagel. Some other tips for eating healthy include shopping in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store–you can try your hand at making sushi or using some new-to-you spices in an Indian or Chinese dish (spices are often cheaper in the ethnic aisle than they are in the baking aisle)—and swapping out some of the fats and oils in your favorite recipes.