How Do You Shop Healthy at the Grocery Store?

Medically Reviewed on 9/20/2021
Choosing to eat healthy involves many lifestyle changes. As your diet changes, so do your go-to meals, snacks, and drinks. Some tips for healthy grocery shopping may include planning ahead, reading the label carefully, and many more.
Choosing to eat healthy involves many lifestyle changes. As your diet changes, so do your go-to meals, snacks, and drinks. Some tips for healthy grocery shopping may include planning ahead, reading the label carefully, and many more.

Choosing to eat healthy involves many lifestyle changes. As your diet changes, so do your go-to meals, snacks, and drinks. Your first step is to learn how to shop healthy at the grocery store. Use these 10 tips for healthy grocery shopping to make the transition to healthy shopping a little easier.

Plan ahead

Make a list of healthy meals and create a comprehensive list of food you need to buy at the grocery store. Think about what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each day. You can even go so far as to categorize the items on your list based on where they’re located in the grocery store. List all your produce together, then your meats, then your grains, etc. 

If you don't make a list, you could find yourself making quick trips to the store often to pick up items you’ve forgotten. These small visits give you more opportunities to buy the tempting foods you’re working hard to avoid.

Planning ahead will help you focus on healthy food while you browse the not-so-healthy aisles. You’ll move quickly through the store because you’ll know exactly what you need, and you’ll be prepared to ignore impulsive items that can throw a wrench in your healthy shopping.

Start with fresh food

When you walk into the store, don’t go straight for the rows of nonperishables. Walk the edges of the store to add fresh foods to your cart first. Prioritize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, fish, and lean proteins before heading into the middle of the store where there’s more temptation.

Don’t avoid the center aisles completely, because many of your healthy food items will be found here. After stocking up on fresh essentials, you’ll have a healthy mindset and be ready to tackle the snacks and treats that line the shelves near your healthy foods.


Foods That Aren't as Healthy as You Think See Slideshow

Read the label

Food labels can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Depending on your goals that have brought you to shop healthy at the grocery store, you’ll want to look for different things. You’ll typically want to avoid items that have higher sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. It’s ok if you don’t know what “high” numbers look like; grab a few options and compare the labels to get an idea.‌

Some products say that they’re all natural or organic, but these can still be full of bad ingredients. Generally, foods that have fewer ingredients will be better for you. If there are ingredients that you don’t recognize, do a quick internet search to find out what they are and if they're harmful.

Don’t shop hungry

Shopping hungry leads to impulse buys. Make sure to eat before you do your healthy shopping to help stay strong against adding unhealthy food to your cart, eating in-store samples, and cracking open snacks as you walk around the store. Get in the right mood by drinking plenty of water and eating a nutritious snack, like apples with peanut butter or veggies and hummus.

Canned proteins

If you’re going to buy canned proteins, like fish, chicken, or other lean meats, you’ll come across a few standard options. A healthier choice is to buy proteins canned in water, not oil, and that are labeled as low sodium or no salt added.

Fruits and vegetables

The same goes for canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. You can rinse your canned vegetables and beans before eating them if there’s not a low sodium option. There won’t be canned produce in oil, but you’ll want to choose fruit canned in water, natural juices, or without sugar added and frozen fruit that has no added sugar, syrup, or other sweeteners.

Grains and bread

Take a look at the label before you buy grain and bread products. If you can, avoid products that have a list of ingredients that begins with "enriched flour" or "multi-grain." You should buy items that list a whole grain first.

Buy in large quantities

Instead of buying a lot of new foods in small quantities, focus on buying healthy foods you know you like in large quantities. Many healthy foods are offered in bulk, like:

  • Dry beans
  • Rice and pasta
  • Canned meat and fish
  • Dried fruit
  • Raw nuts

‌Buying in bulk presents its own temptations. To avoid eating a ton of food at once, portion your large quantities down into smaller serving sizes to help your future self avoid eating too much.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Shop for new foods at new places

While you buy your favorite healthy groceries in bulk, keep your mind open to new possibilities. Shop at a variety of stores to explore different healthy choices that they offer, including farmers' markets and other unconventional grocery shopping options. When shopping for produce, farmers' markets are a great place to get nutrient-packed food that has been quickly brought from the farm to your shopping bag.

Stock up on a variety of foods

If you choose to only focus on one food group, you might burn out quickly. Fill your fridge and pantry with a variety of healthy foods to make healthy eating easier on yourself. Consider buying healthy versions of these items:

  • Breakfast cereal
  • Dairy products, like coconut milk, yogurt, or milk-based desserts
  • Frozen foods that aren’t fried, battered, or breaded
  • Whole grain couscous, polenta, or quinoa
  • Ingredients to make your own soup instead of salty, canned soups

These 10 tips for healthy grocery shopping will help you be successful on your next trip for healthy groceries.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/20/2021

American Heart Association: "9 Grocery Shopping Tips."

Eat for Health: "Food shopping tips."

Penn Medicine: "Smart Grocery Shopping Tips."