How To Grocery Shop Like A Dietitian


The Terrors of Grocery Shopping


Often times people get frustrated when going to the grocery store, they don’t know where to start. They might even make a list of what they need but come out with more than they expected. This can quickly increase your grocery bill, sometimes spending $50-100 more than you needed to. Grocery shopping is expensive enough, we shouldn’t add more to the bill. However, I’m guilty of it too when I don’t focus on what I specifically need.

The grocery store industry has ways of distributing the food throughout the store to entice you into buying more products than you actually need. This is called “product placement”. It’s the reason why we see the check out lines stocked with last minute items we think we need. It’s why the yummy food samples are placed at the ends of the aisles. Take note next time you head up to your local grocery store. Do you notice you gravitate towards a certain brand because of the way it is packaged? 



MY Grocery Tricks


Grocery shopping should not be something you dread. It also should not be the last chore on the list, waiting until your pantry is barren before you head up to the store to restock. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to share about grocery shopping and what my ten staples any grocery cart should include.

Trick #1: Buying nutritious foods does not have to be expensive, it can very well be but you don’t have to “buy” into it. When foods become more expensive, most of the time it is because of the packaging. The cheapest way to eat healthy is to buy whole foods, like the fruits and veggies in the produce aisle that have not been “pre-cut, pre-sliced, pre-washed”, breads that are not “pre-sliced”, and cheese that has not been “pre-cut”.

Trick #2: When you’re in the grocery store look for sales. In the grocery store, promotions are everywhere. They say “2 for the cost of 1” or “buy this, get another item for free”. Take advantage of these promotions if you can. This will save you a few trips to the store. There have been so many times I stock up on items I know I will use later and I always do!

Trick #3: Another cost effective trick is to plan out meals and make a list BEFORE you go to the store. I am not a huge meal planner, I know what I plan today I will not want tomorrow. However, I do plan the basics such as chicken at least one meal this week, turkey sandwich for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast etc so I make a list based on what I need for the week. This keeps me from going back to the store during the week and keeps me from spending too much on groceries.

Trick #4:  Don’t be scared to buy the generic brand. Many stores have their own generic brand of the food items you love. My local HEB grocery store has it’s own brand that is generally 50 cents – 2 dollars cheaper than the leading brand. This can save you up to $20 in the check out line!

Trick #5: Lastly, and most importantly if you have the space to do so, buy food in bulk. This not only saves time but it also saves money. Buying in bulk typically is less expensive in the long run and the pantry/ freezer is stocked so you have choices during the week about what to make for meals.




MY Grocery Staples


  • 1. Oatmeal: I can’t tell you enough how versatile this product this. Whether you are on a budget or not, the low price for high nutrition is hard to beat. Oatmeal is high in fiber and low in fat giving it the perfect nutrition equation for a healthy breakfast.
    • I recommend getting old fashioned rolled oats, giving you the opportunity to add fruit, flax seeds, cocoa nibs, nuts, milk, sugar etc to it. Pre-packaged oatmeal sometimes contains high amounts of sugar and other additives, causing the health benefits to be diminished. **Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free


  • 2. Brown Rice: Just like whole wheat bread is better for you than white bread, brown rice is better than white rice. Brown rice still has the hull and bran intact unlike white rice. Brown rice is higher in nutrients such as magnesium, thiamin, calcium, fiber, and potassium.
    • I recommend getting rice that is not already pre-cooked. Instead look for brown rice on the shelves that is whole bagged with no additives. This is also more economical when it comes to price. **Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free


  • 3. Olive Oil: Olive oil has so many benefits to the body because it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and much more.
    • I recommend an extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil. The words “virgin” or “extra virgin” means the oil has not been refined and does not have any additives. Look for the words “ice pressed” or “cold pressed” because the nutrients have been retained during the processing, giving you the maximum benefits of olive oil consumption. **Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free

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  • 4. Eggs: Whether you like yours sunny side up or scrambled, eggs are almost mandatory as a pantry staple. Baking requires them, your husband demands them in the morning, cooking from scratch mostly calls for them, lets face it, it’s a declared staple. The good thing is, eggs are very high in protein and relatively cheap.
    • If you find yourself eating eggs more than 3-4 times a week, I recommend switching to egg whites. This is the clear part of the egg that turns white when cooked. The egg white only contains protein, unlike the egg yolk that contains protein, cholesterol, and fat. **Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free


  • 5. Fruit: It’s important to eat lots of fruit during the day because it has good carbs, high fiber, low fat and natural sugars that give your body energy. Different fruits give you different types of vitamins, and eating a variety of fruit can increase your vitamin consumption.
    • If you’re on a budget, I would recommend buying bananas, apples, oranges and lemons. The citrus fruits give you loads of vitamin C, while the bananas supply potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Apples are great for vitamin C as well. **Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free


  • 6. Vegetables: It’s also important to eat lots of vegetables during the day, giving you certain nutrients like iron, vitamin D, calcium etc. Just like fruit, different vegetables contain different types of vitamins and nutrients. 
    • My grocery cart usually contains celery, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach and other salad greens. Keeping a variety of vegetables makes me actively incorporate veggies into my meals. **Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free


  • 7. Whole Wheat Bread: This staple is great for those minute meal options, or the lunch ideas on the go. Meals such as sandwiches, or toast for breakfast. It’s relatively  cheap and Whole Wheat bread is a healthier option than white bread because it still contains the bran in which the nutrients are contained.
    • Finding the right bread is like going on an easter egg hunt, there are so many options out there and they all look the same from the outside. I recommend looking at the ingredients and finding a bread that contains the fewest possible additives.

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  • 8. Milk: This has been a staple in many households throughout the last couple of centuries. The only thing that has changed is buying it at the store instead of getting it on the farm. Milk is a great source of calcium & vitamin D, which need to be consumed together in order to maximize their benefits. 
    • I recommend looking for a brand that does not use rBST hormones. In my grocery card, I typically buy skim milk if I can get away with it. My husband likes whole milk, so we compromised and we now buy 2% milk. If you’re struggling with dairy intolerance, I recommend buying almond milk. Almond milk has 50% more calcium than dairy milk. **Soy Free, Gluten Free, Sugar Free


  • 9. Lean Meat Protein: Unless you are vegan or vegetarian and know how to appropriately get your protein, lean meat it a great staple in the freezer/refrigerator for meaning your protein needs. 
    • I recommend lean meats such as turkey, chicken, fish etc. Lean meats are typically white as opposed to red meats like steak and beef. I keep fresh sliced turkey breast in the refrigerator at all times for snacks and lunches. Frozen chicken breasts are great to have on hand as well. Fish is best when it is fresh, I like to buy it on a “as needed” basis. **Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free


  • 10. Black Beans: The nutrition facts for black beans are beyond amazing. This little bean has so much going for it. For starters, it’s fiber, potassium, protein, and iron levels are so incredibly high it should be considered a super food. Furthermore, it’s also stocked with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Do not underestimate this bean, it can do wonders for your health.
    • Although this is a relatively cheap food to have on hand, if you buy it in a can it is just as nutritious. I recommend looking for reduced sodium content if you buy black beans via can. Canned beans can be very high in sodium, leading to other trouble with cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack and hypertension. try to limit the sodium under 200 mg. ** Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free





All photos used in this article were taken by Stephanie Rackley for and by The Healthy Chew 

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