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Complete Guide to Grocery Shopping for a Healthy Start in the New Year

January 2, 2024
Complete Guide to Grocery Shopping for a Healthy Start in the New Year

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In this article:

  • Healthy grocery shopping can give you a good foundation for healthy eating, but it can be tricky to know what to buy. This guide to grocery shopping can help you get foods you need to help you lose weight and eat healthier.
  • Plan your upcoming meals and snacks, take inventory of what you have, and put together a shopping list that has the foods you need.
  • Fresh items to purchase include fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products, lean proteins, pantry staples, and low-calorie beverages.
  • You can save money by buying store brands, going to different stores, and checking sales and coupons.
  • Lark can help you lose weight with or without GLP-1s as you log food, get tips for eating healthier, and make small changes that can turn into healthy habits.

Eating well can help you manage weight and improve health. Smart grocery shopping can help you get the foods you need so you can make healthy meals and snacks when you need them. 

Make a List

Make a list so you can buy the foods you need and avoid foods you don’t need. First, think about the meals and snacks that you are planning to have in the coming days. You can make a complete meal plan or stick to your usual meals and snacks. 

Then, check which foods you have in your kitchen and which you’ll need to purchase on your shopping trip. These are some foods that may be on your list.

  • Lean proteins and vegetables for most meals
  • Items for sandwiches, snacks, egg dishes, or other recipes that you usually make
  • Snack options for various situations that you’ll be in
  • Breakfast items
  • Staples to replenish long-lasting foods that you’re running low on

Nutritious Foods to Include

The following types of foods may be on your list. 

  • Produce (fruits and vegetables) 
  • Lean proteins
  • Reduced-Fat Dairy and Egg Products and Alternatives
  • Grains and Cereal
  • Pantry and Fridge Staples
  • Beverages

Produce (Fruits and Vegetables)

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, filling, and packed with nutrients. Aim for at least 3 cups of non-starchy vegetables each day. Salads, cooked vegetables, and raw vegetables all count. Frozen vegetables can be good options, too. These are a few examples.

  • Greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, mixed greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and kale
  • Tomatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, and celery
  • Bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts

You might also purchase a few servings of starchy vegetables to get you through the week. These are examples.

  • Potatoes
  • Yams or sweet potatoes
  • Corn on the cob or frozen corn
  • Parsnips

These are some common fruits you might consider purchasing if they’re available. If you get frozen fruit, look for unsweetened varieties. 

  • Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and tangerines
  • Peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines when in season (summer)
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
  • Watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe
  • Frozen pineapple, mango, berries, cherries, and peaches
  • Avocados count as a healthy fat, but they’re a fruit and you’ll find them in the fresh produce section or freezer.

Though it’s good to make a list, it’s also good to watch for what looks good when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Fresh, Frozen, Dried, and Canned Lean Proteins

Protein helps you feel full for longer after a meal. Have enough on your list to have a serving of a high-protein food at nearly all meals and snacks. Here are some examples of lean protein foods. Purchase the following items fresh or frozen. 

  • Fish and shellfish
  • Tofu
  • Skinless chicken and turkey, and lean ground turkey
  • Veggie burgers
  • Low-sodium deli chicken or turkey breast with no nitrate from artificial or natural sources

You can also get your protein from canned goods, such as the following. 

  • Canned or pouch tuna, salmon, herring, and mackerel
  • Dried or canned low-sodium beans, such as black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, and kidney beans

Reduced-Fat Dairy and Egg Products and Alternatives

Low-fat and nonfat dairy products can provide calcium and protein. They can count as your protein option for a meal. Look for reduced-fat options to keep calories and fat lower. 

Many plant-based dairy alternatives, such as those made with almond, soy, oat, or coconut, are fortified with calcium. Some, like soy, have protein, while others may not.

Choose these items. 

  • Skim milk or an unsweetened plant-based alternative
  • Low-fat or fat-free block or shredded cheese, such as mozzarella, cheddar, or Swiss, or low-fat string cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Nonfat plain yogurt, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, or nonfat yogurt with no added sugar
  • Eggs or liquid egg or egg substitute

Grains and Cereal

Most of your grains should be whole for extra fiber and natural nutrients. They’re lower glycemic than refined products like white bread and pasta, which means that they don’t spike your blood sugar as much. They’re easy to incorporate into your diet since you can usually exchange them for refined grains and they’re often available in store brands. Sandwiches, breakfast cereal, and side dishes are common uses for grains. 

These are some grains that you may want to have on your list. 

  • Bread, such as whole-grain sliced bread or whole-grain pita, mini bagels, tortillas, or English muffins
  • Steel cut, rolled, or instant oats, or plain instant oatmeal
  • Whole-grain cereal with less than 4 grams of sugar per serving like oat Os, shredded wheat, and puffed brown rice
  • Dry grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain pasta
  • Whole-grain snacks like air-popped popcorn from plain kernels, light popcorn, brown rice cakes, and whole-grain crackers

Pantry and Fridge Staples

Some foods should always be available in your kitchen. Check when you’re making your grocery store shopping list to see if you need to replenish your supply of any of these types of food. 

  • Yellow, dijon, or spicy brown mustard
  • White wine, red wine, apple cider, or balsamic vinegar
  • Olive and canola oil
  • Peanut or almond butter, nuts, peanuts, and pumpkin, chia, sunflower, or flaxseed
  • Low-sodium canned broth or soup with ingredients such as vegetables, chicken, barley, brown rice, beans, and lentils
  • Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce 
  • Hot sauce, sriracha, low-sodium soy sauce, and salsa
  • Hummus
  • Garlic
  • Dried herbs and spices like black pepper, cumin, basil, bay leaves, cinnamon, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary, and Italian herbs


Low-calorie and calorie-free beverages can help you stay hydrated and manage weight better. Here are some options to supplement or replace tap water.

  • Bottled water
  • Sparkling water
  • Black, white, green, or herbal tea bags
  • Instant, ground, or whole bean coffee
  • Unsweetened iced tea

Your Budget and Your Health

Sometimes healthy foods are more expensive, but there may be ways to reduce costs. Here are some tips.

  • Look for store brand items instead of national brands
  • Shop at larger supermarkets instead of convenience stores
  • Consider sales and discounts from grocery store weekly ads and coupons when you’re making your meal plan and grocery list
  • Use shelf labels to compare per-unit prices to find the best deal. You might see per-unit prices as dollars and cents per pound or ounce, per serving, or per packet, for example
  • Use an app that lets you compare prices at local stores so you can get the best prices
  • Stock up on frozen foods when on sale
  • Ask about store rewards programs to get cash back or discounts when you sign up and shop 

More Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

Stick to your list and check food packages to increase your chances of getting what you need and skipping foods and beverages that aren’t what you want.

Stick to Your List

Your grocery list has healthy items on it. Other foods in the store may be less healthy. When you purchase foods that aren’t on your list, you might make impulse purchases that are less healthy. 

These are some impulse purchases to be wary of.

  • Candy, often in the checkout lane
  • Single-serving soft drinks and energy drinks, often in refrigerators at checkout lanes
  • Potato and tortilla chips, often at ends of aisles
  • Bakery, deli, and prepared foods, often at the front of the store

Plan a Snack

If you are planning to shop for groceries at a time when you’re normally hungry, consider having a healthy snack before you go. That way, you’re less likely to buy calorie-dense snacks like candy, granola bars, or chips while you’re in the supermarket. Try a piece of fruit, hard-boiled egg, low-fat string cheese stick, or cup of carrots or celery with hummus to satisfy hunger while you shop.

If you look forward to buying a healthy snack in the store as a reward for grocery shopping, just make sure it’s something healthy. You might look for a new variety of apple, for example, or try a 100-calorie pack of seasoned almonds right after you purchase it and leave the store.

Reading Labels

Reading labels can help you find the most nutritious foods and avoid imposters. You don’t have to be an expert to benefit from a quick glance at some labels. Here are some pieces of information that can help you.

  • Serving size. Don’t assume that a serving size is the amount you usually consume. Often, the serving size is smaller than you think, which means the amount of calories, carbs, and sodium can be higher.
  • Added sugars. Flavored oatmeal and yogurt, teriyaki sauce and other condiments, cereal, bread, and other sweetened and flavored foods can have more sugar than you expect. 
  • List of ingredients. This is the best place to find whether a food is whole-grain. Breads called “multigrain” and “wheat” often aren’t whole-grain. Check the list of ingredients to make sure the first ingredient listed is a whole grain, such as “whole wheat,” “brown rice flour,” or “whole grain corn flour.” The list of ingredients is also helpful if you’re trying to avoid cancer-causing nitrates from processed meat.

How Lark Can Help

Weight loss management is easier when you have the foods you need, and healthy grocery shopping is essential. Lark offers additional tools and support. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for nutrition and physical activity coaching and tracking. Lark can help you make healthy choices and establish habits that fit into your lifestyle so you can lose weight and keep it off with or without GLP-1 medications. 

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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