You’ve made the decision to eat healthier — now what? How do you know what basic groceries you will need prepare healthy meals and meet your nutritional goals?
So we asked nutrition experts to explain the best ways to make a basic grocery list of healthy staples you should always have on hand in your kitchen.
How to Create a Basic Grocery List
“It’s always best to go to the grocery store with a basic grocery list in hand – it can help prevent impulse buying and stick to your budgetsays Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD and Head of Nutrition for Beachbody.
The good news?
Once you’ve taken the time to make a good basic shopping list, it will only take a few minutes to figure out what you’ll need for your next shopping trip.
“I find the best way to build a healthy grocery list is to plan your meals for the week,” adds Maguire. “Once you have an idea of what you are going to eat, you will know exactly what to buy.”
Use the basic grocery list below as a reference, then add the extra ingredients you’ll need for everything healthy recipes you plan to try this week.
Most recipes yield multiple servings, so if you live alone, plan to use leftovers as meal preparation.
For example, say you want to make spaghetti with spinach and ground turkey: “You’ll probably buy a can of pasta, a package of ground turkey, a jar of pasta sauce, and a bunch of spinach,” says Maleah Staton, Registered Dietitian.
This will provide enough food to cover 4-6 of your meals for the week.
Create a Basic Grocery List on a Budget
It’s expensive to eat healthy – or is it? Healthy foods have a reputation for being a wallet-buster, but you can eat well on a budget if you plan ahead.
“If you’re on a budget, you can opt for less expensive recipes and foods,” says Maguire. “For example, choosing chicken over steak should save money, or choosing eggs over fish.”
Bulk foods are generally more affordable than pre-packaged foods, which is why Maguire recommends buying pantry staples such as grains, beans, nuts and bulk spices.
And don’t pay for the convenience of pre-chopped fruits, vegetables and salad mixes.
“Sticking to whole foods rather than packaged items is a great way to cut down on the overall grocery bill,” Maguire says.
Preparing your food might take a little longer, but your wallet will thank you.
The Best Staple Foods to Add to Your Basic Grocery List
There are some healthy foods you should always keep on hand, so they’re there when you need a last-minute healthy meal or snack.
“There are so many things you can do with chicken breast, ground turkey, eggs, and organic tofu,” says Maguire.
“Also, [stock up on] a variety of canned beans — like chickpeas to make hummus, or black beans to throw in a breakfast taco or on a salad or in a bowl of cereal and mixed vegetables, she adds.
And make sure you always have the ingredients you need to whip up the healthy treats you (and your taste buds) love.
“Some staples I always buy include oatmeal, bananas, almond milk, nut butter, nuts, eggs, avocado, and sprouted bread,” Maguire explains.
Here are the healthy food staples you need.
For the fridge and freezer:
- Fresh fruit (“It’s nice to have some that you can grab for on-the-go snacks like bananas or apples,” Maguire says.)
- frozen fruit
- Fresh vegetables
- Frozen vegetables (“My freezer staples include frozen riced cauliflower, frozen kale, and broccoli,” says Staton.)
- Protein of your choice (chicken, fish, steak, organic tempeh, organic tofu, canned tuna or salmon)
- Milk or non-dairy unsweetened milk substitute
- Plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Eggs (ideally local or pastured eggs)
For the pantry:
- Unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables (sweet potatoes, avocados, tomatoes)
- Dry whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice)
- Canned beans (garbanzo, pinto, black)
- Dry dough
- Bread (sprouted or whole)
- Nut butters
- Condiments (olive oil, vinegar, mustard, vinaigrette, salsa)
- Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup)
- Snacks (air popped corn, whole grain crackers, dried fruit, nuts)
For the spice rack:
Spices can really enhance the flavor of healthy dishes without adding calories or sugar.
“I love using basil in Asian or Italian dishes and cilantro, curry, and cumin in Mexican or Indian dishes,” says Staton.
Keep them handy:
- Sea salt
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- chili powder