We can all agree: A trip to the grocery store can be an exercise in serious wastefulness if you don’t go in with a solid list.
Sticking to mostly whole, nutrient-dense foods and limiting processed foods as much as possible is the best approach for optimal health, says Jillian Kubala, a registered dietitian and Healthline contributor.
She’s created the ultimate grocery list. Ready to start shopping your store like a pro? Don’t worry, if you like something that isn’t included, just add it in!
- whole chicken or skin-on chicken breasts (Use all of it to make soup!)
- canned wild-caught salmon (Tip: Almost all canned salmon is wild-caught!)
- fresh fish fillets such as flounder or cod
- shellfish such as shrimp or crab
- ground turkey or grass-fed beef or pork
- vegetarian protein sources such as extra-firm tofu or tempeh
- canned beans such as garbanzo beans, black beans, or kidney beans
- canned or dried lentils
- grains such as quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, teff, farro, buckwheat, barley, and millet (Find them in individual packages or in the bulk food section of some grocery stores.)
- rolled or steel-cut oats (Stay away from sugary instant oatmeal — instead choose plain rolled or steel-cut oats and add your own toppings.)
- corn tortillas made with minimal ingredients
Veggies and fruits
- frozen greens like spinach and kale
- frozen chopped veggies like broccoli and cauliflower
- frozen fruits like berries, cherries, cubed mango, and pomegranate seeds
Bread and flour
- frozen skin-on chicken breast
- frozen ground turkey
- frozen wild-caught fish and shellfish
Fats and oils
The following are healthy, minimally processed fats that promote health in various ways:
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- ghee or grass-fed butter
- coconut oil
- unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut butter
Nuts and nut butters
- pumpkin seeds
- natural peanut butter (only ingredients should be peanuts and salt)
- almond butter
- sunflower seeds
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds (These tiny seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They make an excellent addition to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal.)
- ground flaxseed
- apple cider vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
- hot sauce
- pure maple syrup
- tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
- nutritional yeast
- vanilla extract
- salt and pepper
- red pepper flakes
- garlic powder
- curry powder
- chili powder
- chicken broth
- baking powder
- baking soda
- cacao and cacao nibs
- sun-dried tomatoes
- tea bags (green and black are great)
- herbal teas such as peppermint, hibiscus, and ginger
- sparkling water
Shop whole foods
The grocery list above contains whole foods, but that doesn’t mean you have to shop at the pricey store by that name. It just means foods that are sold almost exactly as they came from the plant or animal.
You may notice that this list includes high fat foods such as skin-on chicken, avocados, nut butters, and full fat yogurt rather than low fat products.
According to Kubala, these nutritious foods with their natural fats may deliver impressive health benefits like improving heart health (yes, you read that right), reducing blood sugar, and even improving brain function over time.
Shop wild and free
Whenever possible, choose pasture-raised, organic eggs, meat, and poultry as well as wild-caught fish.
Pasture-raised eggs, for example, have higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E than eggs from conventionally raised hens.
Pasture-raised dairy products also have higher levels of omega-3 fats and antioxidants, including beta carotene and lutein, compared to dairy from cattle fed conventional grain-based diets.
Also, spend the extra cash on organic produce when you can, especially for berries, grapes, apples, and greens — a 2020 analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that these fruits and veggies have the most pesticide residues.
Shop the perimeter
Start in the produce aisle and work your way around the perimeter of the grocery store before heading to the inner aisles.
This can help ensure that you fill your cart with a nice array of brightly colored vegetables and fruits (instead of brightly colored boxes, bags, and bottles).
Shop in season
Finally, know which fruits and vegetables are in season and opt for those first. They taste better and may be fresher. Download an app like the Seasonal Food Guide so you can figure out what’s in season in your area.
Better yet, whenever possible, visit local farms to shop for in-season produce. Your body (all of it — your organs, bones, blood sugar, and brain) will thank you.