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Stock Up on these Healthy Staples

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Produce: Start Here
Fresh fruits and veggies are the foundation of a healthy diet. Here are some of the best picks to help you reach your goals:
  • Apples are good to have on hand for a quick snack. They’re usually cheaper by the bag, and they last for a while, so don’t be afraid to stock up.
  • Bananas are another handy snack. This fruit is also an essential if you’re a fan of smoothies. Wait for them to ripen (with a few brown spots), then peel, slice, and freeze in an airtight container for a quick, frosty addition to your favorite smoothie combo.
  • Lettuce. Skip the iceberg (it's low in nutrients) and grab a head of Romaine (for salads and sandwiches) and some mixed baby greens (also great for salads).
  • Carrots are a simple snack (try dipping them in almond or peanut butter for a new twist) and a common ingredient in soup and stir-fry.
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables. If you buy just one produce item, this should be it. Greens are high in calcium, folate, and vitamin C, and delicious. There are lots of varieties of greens (broccoli, kale, chard, and spinach are popular examples).
  • Avocados, those mysterious egg-shaped fruits, are rich in good fats, and delicious additions to sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Buy them when they're green and allow them to ripen on your counter—they're ready to eat when soft. Homemade guacamole makes a flavorful addition to veggies, burritos and baked chips.
  • Other seasonal foods. Whatever is in-season in your region is usually most nutritious and flavorful. Check out this list of seasonal produce items to add to your cart throughout the year.
What to Avoid in the Produce Section: Fortunately, nothing in this section is bad for you, and each item offers some health benefit. You can’t go wrong if you aim for variety, filling your cart with a bounty of colorful fruits and vegetables during each grocery trip.

Bread & Cereal Aisles
Bread, cereals and other grain products can often be the most confusing to buy, and healthy sounding phrases on their packages (Health Nut, 12-Grain, and more) don't make it any easier. For the best bet, ignore the claims on the front of the box and go straight to the nutrition label.
  • Whole wheat bread. To make sure you're buying whole grain bread (which is superior in nutrition and arguably, flavor) make sure "whole" is the first word on the ingredient list. The same goes for buns, bagels, English muffins, pitas, and other bread products.
  • Sprouted grain bread (Ezekial is a common brand) is usually sold in the freezer case or natural foods section. It's made entirely of sprouted whole grains, which are more easily digestible for some people. This bread also boasts protein (and all essential amino acids) and fiber.
  • Whole grain pasta. Choose whole wheat pasta and couscous, or even brown rice pasta for variety.
  • Brown rice is a healthy addition to many meals. For quicker cooking, you can soak it on the counter for a few hours before boiling it, or buy pre-cooked brown rice in the freezer section that you can reheat in the microwave in minutes!
  • Healthy cereals are those made with whole grains and without added sugar. Here's Dietitian Becky's list of the top choices.
  • Oatmeal is a hearty breakfast staple that cooks in minutes. Buy (plain) instant or quick oats to save time. When cooking it on the stovetop, add a handful of frozen blueberries for a scrumptious breakfast truly fit for champions.
What to Avoid in the Bread & Cereal Aisles:
  • Snack cakes, doughnuts, muffins, Danishes and other pastries don't make healthy breakfast choices.
  • Sugary cereals, especially those marketed to kids
  • Limit "wheat flour" products. Don't let words like "wheat flour" or "wheat bread" fool you. Unless the ingredients list "whole wheat" as #1, these products are just posing as healthy.
  • Limit white flour products. Refined grains (white bread, rice and cereals) are missing the most nutritious parts of the grain.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I think the article is a good starting point. However, do your own research & decide what works best for your life. Avoiding high fructose corn syrup, reading labels, choosing low sugar, less processed foods are good for everyone though~ - 11/12/2014 6:06:57 AM
  • EVERBRIGHT
    This is a very useful article as a starting point. But I think it could have been padded out a bit more, although I understand that it is not intended to be an exhaustive list. It would have been helpful if it had flagged that 'healthy' products, like wholewheat bread, mentioned above often have a high sugar content and that 4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. It would also have been nice for alternatives to bread, like natural oatcakes, to have been suggested. They could have mentioned seeds as well, as these are supposed to be super foods. I'm also surprised that coconut oil hasn't been mentioned as a lower cholesterol alternative to olive oil for cooking. - 6/16/2014 6:25:32 PM
  • everything cold HAS to be towards the back/perimeter of the store. It's just logistics - the docks for unloading are where? At the back. So the refrigerated & frozen storage is as close to the unloading area as possible. - 5/6/2014 1:57:48 AM
  • DADKAJ
    sorry guys, there are few imprecisions in the article. if margarine is blended with water, weight per weight it will not have the same energy content as original butter. meanwhile: what is wrong with little saturated fat? i am a nutritionist but the author of the article is not and i see the difference. i assure you, once you started eating healthily and exercising, butter or full-fat milk is not your enemy anymore. in fact, that little extra fat increases satiety, and actually helps to absorb and utilize the calcium with thecontains naturally occurring vitamin D3 (instead of vitamin D2 in fortified products, having a lower bioactivity than D3). once you take fat from the milk, vitamin D3 goes with it, too. at least, semi-skimmed is a good compromise and it tastes much better. skimmed milk is just a by-product of dairy production that would otherwise be drained away. now they found the way to sell it to you for the same price as a real milk.
    also: why scared of HFCS but not of sugar? dont you have sugar in the USA? i know that its per capita availability has slightly increased while the HFCS was on the decline in the past several years. and they are virtually the same nutritionally and metabolically, if there is not the HFCS-90.

    why do you not let nutritionist write the articles about nutrition? i mean the qualified nutritionists. i am not going to apply for a job here, i have just pointed out how misleading these articles can be. - 3/2/2014 4:14:59 PM
  • I try to buy a lot more vegetables. I find it odd I am even saying that as even as a kid I did not mind them. I find I am trying to eat less and less junk food. Its as though I am developing an aversion to it. - 3/1/2014 9:09:21 PM
  • UNEVENSTONE92
    More and more research is coming out presenting evidence that the natural fats in dairy products are NOT bad for us, and, rather, are quite GOOD for us. It makes sense as nature knows what it is doing. - 3/1/2014 1:31:02 AM
  • Since I have started logging and reading labels as a result I see food in a different way. Drove out roommate crazy when he went shopping with us. He complains about how it takes me to shop since I read all the labels of anything, but doesn't seem to mind eating what I cook. He is complaining less now than before after not including him in meals for a bit. My home cooked meals taste better than his banquet tv dinners. - 1/18/2014 2:03:35 AM
  • It's not on the list, but lean ground turkey makes really great meatballs. I found this recipe once that used ground turkey, parsley, garlic, and a little bit of parmesan cheese. They came out amazing and went great with rice or pasta. - 1/17/2014 11:04:02 AM
  • I guess I'm germaphobic, but I never use the baby basket in the cart for anything. Babies sit there with their wet diapers and I don't want that on my purse or food items. Other than the photo I loved the article. - 10/25/2013 9:44:07 AM
  • Instant oats =/= instant oatmeal. But for a far better way to eat them, go steel-cut instead. You can get them in bulk at natural food stores and some regular grocery stores. They take a long time but you can cook them in a large batch once a week, and refrigerate them. Add a bit of milk or water, microwave, and stir. They're better for you and have a far better texture and flavor.

    I think a better overall quiz question would be, can you AFFORD the healthy food in your grocery store? I for one cannot afford to load a cart up with fresh fruits and veggies very often. With apples at $3+ per pound and few bulk varieties (Red and Gold Delicious, Fuji, and the reviled Gala), peppers and so on at a likewise ridiculous rate, I could blow my entire food budget before getting anywhere else in the store. Farmer's markets here are NOT a cheaper option, they're just as or sometimes more expensive, and organic markets and co-ops tend to be likewise (or have produce that goes bad the next day).

    I do garden during the summer, but when nature gives you a bad year... - 9/22/2013 12:33:16 PM
  • Excellent information, full of common sense. One thing I would strongly advise in addition is that members living where there are no laws banning hormones or antibiotics in the meat and/or milk be certain to verify with store management that the products available(includi
    ng anything made with the milk) are unadulterated, esp. if you have children. These additives are highly toxic to growing bodies even more than to us adults who want to become more healthy. - 9/7/2013 6:33:36 AM
  • Great article. - 7/3/2013 8:25:09 AM
  • I think this article has some good tips but I agree with other commentors that it is conflicting with other articles. Maybe if they mention that the less the product has been processed or broken down (like with oats in oatmeal) the better the product will work for weight loss. If your body has to work harder to digest the food then it is doing the work for you. On the other hand I think we can keep in mind that some people might not be incorporating breakfast into their daily routines until they've decided it is time for a change and let's get some healthier food choices. So quick cooking oats would be a good option because it takes less time to make it for breakfast in he morning. And you can get quick oats without all the added sugar etc. if you buy it from the bulk bin instead of in a box labelled with quaker.

    There that's my little spiel haha

    Good luck to all you people reading this article looking to make changes it is hard but it can be done! :) - 11/1/2012 9:57:21 AM
  • Excellent article! - 10/26/2012 3:54:49 AM
  • I DO QUAKER 1 MINUTE QUICK OATS - 10/4/2012 2:12:30 PM

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