Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with a healthy shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge contain mostly healthy foods, everyone in your family is likely to eat better. If the junk food is not in your house, you can’t eat it. Duh.
Surprisingly, healthier eating can lower your grocery bills, too. It’s true that ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods save time, but they can cost more and some have too much salt and fat. I was skeptical of this claim like you are, until I tried it myself. If you want real, sustainable change in your health, you’ve got to get the food part right. The good news is that it’s not that hard to do.
Follow these tips to get the most nutrition bang for your buck.
Stock Up With Staples
These pantry basics will give you the foundation you need for better family nutrition at home.
– Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables
- Canned: Look for low-sodium vegetables and no-added-sugar fruits. We use a lot of canned green beans. Warmed up with whole wheat pasta and some lean meat for a super simple meal.
- Frozen: Use what you need for a meal, then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer. We use a ton of frozen mixed veggies. I like to nuke the frozen veggies with raw broccoli. It steams the broccoli perfectly in 2 mins. Added to some pre-cooked chicken breast and whole wheat pasta or seasoned sweat potato chunks for a delicious healthy meal.
- Dried: Check the label for and avoid added sugar, especially on fruits. I like raisins and dates. They are super sweet on their own to help satisfy my sweet tooth.
– Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and non-instant oatmeal
Steel-cut oatmeal costs just pennies per ounce and is a good source of fiber. I’ve cut a lot of bread out of my diet lately, but I still go for super cheap Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. No need to pay for the fancy stuff.
– Beans, lentils, and peas
Packed with protein and other nutrients, they’re a great way to stretch your food dollar. Save! Use them in everything from soups to chili to burritos. Packaged dried beans cost less but take some planning to cook. Low-sodium canned beans are another option. Rinse canned beans to lower sodium even more.
– Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts
– Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs We eat lots of chicken breast, natural deli turkey, 93% lean ground turkey or beef, and eggs. Lots of eggs. So cheap and filling when mixed with veggies in a stir fry or omelette.
– Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products
Children under age 2 should have whole milk unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Yes, you can eat cheese. Real cheese though. Velveeta is not real cheese. Read the ingredients. We like Sargento Cheese. Yogurt and cottage cheese is tricky. Read the ingredients.
Buy Healthy Snacks
How to keep your kids from going overboard on chips, cookies, and other snacks? Make it easy to find the healthy stuff. We’ve learned that kids will adjust to the food you have. Don’t assume you must have junk food snacks for the kids because that’s all they will eat. You are in charge.
Keep these healthy options on the center shelf of the fridge: (this list is on our fridge)
- cut-up fruit
- baby carrots and low-fat ranch dip
- string cheese
- hard-boiled eggs
- low-fat yogurt
And these on the counter:
- dried fruit and nut mix
- whole-grain crackers and peanut butter
3 Surefire Healthy Grocery Shopping Rules
To keep your food choices on track with your family’s health goals, follow these three basic rules as you cruise the supermarket aisles.
Don’t shop hungry. Ever notice what winds up in your cart when you shop with hunger pangs? Eat a nutritious snack beforehand so the munchies don’t take control of your shopping.
Make a healthy shopping list. Even if you know what you need, a list saves time and prevents impulse buys. Organize your list into sections according to the store’s layout. Shop for the healthy items first, picking up the treats last. We use the Kroger ClickList to automate our shopping. When you shop from home via internet, you are far less likely to add items to your cart that aren’t on the list. Saves buckets of money!
Hug the walls — most of the time. Stay focused. Avoid parts of your grocery store with the unhealthy choices. The edges of the store (the perimeter) tend to have the healthiest choices. Detour down center aisles for beans, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and canned and frozen vegetables and fruit. Skip the aisles with chips and other temptations, or get only the items on your list. When you’re grocery shopping with kids, the temptations can be especially distracting.
Let us know your healthy grocery shopping tricks to save time, money, and sanity.
SOURCES: University Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University: “Convenience costs;” “Snacks for healthy kids;” “Stretch your protein dollar;” “10 tips for saving at the grocery store;” “Ways to save money in 2010;” and “What’s a good buy?”American Dietetic Association: “Raising healthy eaters from preschool to high school” and “Save time and money at the grocery store.”The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: “Winning ways to grocery shop with young children.”WebMD Health News: “Baby Milk Recommendations Changed.”