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Healthy grocery shopping


A key step for losing weight, keeping the weight off, and staying healthy is learning how to buy the right foods at the grocery store.

Smart shopping

Avoid buying foods in bulk and shopping in warehouse-type stores if you can. Getting a good deal can lead to overeating. If you do buy large amounts of a food, divide it into smaller portion sizes and store what you will not use right away.


When you buy protein, choose:

  • Lean ground turkey or chicken and skinless turkey or chicken breasts
  • Lean meat such as bison (buffalo) and lean cuts of pork and beef (such as round, top sirloin, and tenderloin)
  • Fish such as salmon, whitefish, sardines, herring, tilapia, and cod
  • Egg whites and low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • Legumes such as pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans

Fruits and vegetables

Buy plenty of fruits and vegetables. They will fill you up and provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. Some buying tips:

  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to get a full range of nutrients.
  • Your best option is to choose fresh or frozen produce without any added sugar, salt, or sauces.
  • If you buy canned fruit, select fruits that are packed in water or juice, not syrup, and have no sugar added.
  • If you buy canned vegetables, look for low-sodium options.
  • Avoid fruit juices. They are high in sugar and calories and lower in nutrients.

Breads and grains

Choose healthy breads, cereals, and pasta, such as:

  • Whole-grain breads and rolls, such as whole-wheat, pumpernickel, or 7-grain without a lot of added sugar
  • All bran, 100% bran, and shredded wheat cereals -- look for cereals with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving with no added sugar
  • Whole-wheat or other whole-grain pasta

Avoid processed foods. They are much more likely to:

  • Be high in sugar and fats, which add calories
  • Be low in whole grains and real fruit or vegetables
  • Lack vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients
  • Have food additives, such as food coloring

Plan ahead

Before you buy food for the week, think about your schedule:

  • When and where you will be eating over the next week?
  • How much time will you have to cook?

Then, plan your meals before you shop. This can keep you from buying whatever foods look good to you, whether or not they are healthy.

Make a shopping list. Remember to take it with you, and promise yourself you will not buy things that are not on it.

Never go food shopping when you are hungry. You will make better choices if you shop after you have had a healthy meal or snack.

Know how to read food labels

Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts labels on food packages. Know what the serving size is and the amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates per serving.

Learn how to tell the difference between foods that are truly organic. Two words on labels that can be misleading are "natural" and "pure."

Some other tips for reading labels and buying healthy foods are:

  • Choose tuna that is packed in water, not oil.
  • Check the label for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in the list of ingredients. These are unhealthy trans fats. Ingredients listed closer to the beginning of the list means that there are more of them in the food. The label will give the total trans fat content, and you want this to be zero.
  • Carefully read the label of any food that claims it is a weight-loss product. Even though these words are used, the food may not be a healthy choice for you.
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Review Date: 1/30/2018

Reviewed By: John E. Meilahn, MD, Bariatric Surgery, Chestnut Hill Surgical Associates, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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