• Melissa Genee, RD

Grocery Shopping Tips for a Balanced Diet


Image from Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay

Healthy eating starts with having healthy food in your fridge and pantry. With endless amounts of options at the grocery store, it can be challenging to make the right decision for you and your family. Take a grocery store tour with us for tips and tricks to filling your grocery cart with healthy and nutritious options.

Before stepping into the grocery store, it is important to make a meal plan, which will dictate your grocery shopping list. For healthy and delicious recipes, check out these family friendly resources: Cookspiration, Unlock Food, Canada’s Food Guide Recipes. Use this weekly meal planner and printable grocery checklist to help plan your meals and snacks for the week! Once in the grocery store, stick to your list and avoid making any unplanned or impulse purchases.

Now, let’s start shopping!

Vegetables and Fruits:

Fill your shopping cart with plenty of brightly coloured fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables and fruits are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and a great option if they are not in season. When buying frozen produce, buy plain varieties with no added sauces or sugars. Canned vegetables and fruits can also be a convenient and easy option, but watch out for added sodium and sugar. Choose canned vegetables that have low or no sodium added - when possible, it is also recommended to rinse your canned vegetables before use. When buying canned fruit, choose varieties that are canned in water or their own juice.

Shopping list:

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as romaine, spinach, kale, bok choy or swiss chard

  • Brightly coloured vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, purple cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, turnips and beets

  • Vibrant and in-season fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, berries, peaches, plums and mangoes

  • Plain frozen vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, corn and avocado

  • Canned vegetables with no or low sodium

  • Canned fruits in their own juice or water

Protein Sources:

When choosing meats and poultry, choose leaner cuts and skinless varieties - these meats will be lower in cholesterol and unhealthy animal fats. Try to eat at least 2 servings of fish each week including fresh, frozen or canned varieties. Plant proteins such as beans, peas, lentils and tofu are healthy and budget friendly options to include in your grocery cart. If purchasing canned lentils, peas and beans, choose low sodium varieties and remember to rinse thoroughly before using. Nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein - choose varieties that do not contain added sugars or sodium. For a new food, try textured vegetable protein or TVP. TVP is a dehydrated soy product that is full of protein and a budget friendly alternative to ground meat. Read more about textured vegetable protein and some recommended uses here.

Shopping list:

  • Well trimmed beef such as eye of round, top round roast, sirloin steak or extra lean ground beef

  • Pork tenderloin and loin chops

  • Skinless chicken or turkey

  • Ground chicken or turkey

  • Fresh, frozen or canned fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, shrimp or trout

  • Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils

  • Tofu

  • Textured vegetable protein

  • Plain nuts and nut butters such as peanut, cashew, and almond

  • Seeds such as pumpkin, flax, sunflower, chia, hemp

  • Eggs

Whole Grains:

It is recommended that half of your grain products are whole grains. Whole grains contain the most nutrients, including important B vitamins as well as fibre! While refined grains tend to be more palatable, especially to children, the greatest health benefit comes from eating whole grains. If you or your children do not like the taste or texture of whole grains, start small. For rice and pasta, mix a small amount of whole grains with refined grains. Gradually increase the amount of whole grains used until you and your family enjoy the taste and texture of whole grains. When purchasing grains, it is important to remember that whole wheat and multigrain products are not necessarily whole grain. Products that are 100% whole grain will be listed as the main ingredient on the label (ex: whole barley, whole grain wheat, whole grain rye).

Now let’s talk cereals. Cereals are a staple for many families as they are quick, easy and enjoyed by children and adults alike. Unfortunately, not all cereals are created equally. Choose whole grain cereals with little or no added sugars and with 2-4 grams of fibre in each serving (for more information about reading labels check our our previous blog post: Nutrition Labels 101). For some added sweetness, top your cereal off with fresh or frozen fruits such as bananas, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Shopping list:

  • 100% whole grain bread

  • Whole grain pastas

  • Whole grain cereal

  • Whole grain crackers

  • Whole grain tortillas

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa

  • Barley

  • Oatmeal

Dairy:

There seems to be an ever expanding number of milk options in the grocery store. From sweetened cow milk, flavoured soy milk, nut milk and oat milk, it can be overwhelming to make the best choice for your family. While plant based milks can be a healthy option for adults, most are not recommended for children, as they do not contain the essential nutrients needed for bone health and growth. Cow’s milk and unsweetened fortified soy milk are recommended for families as they contain adequate protein, vitamin D and calcium. For children over the age of 2, choose 1% or 2% cow’s milk.

Navigating the yogurt section can also be challenging due to the endless flavours, varieties and brands. Fruit on the bottom. Stirred. Greek yogurt. Skyr. Drinkable yogurt. Low sugar. High protein. How’s a person to choose? For healthy and nutritious yogurts, choose plain varieties made with 1 or 2% milk fat and varieties with little to no added sugars. Add a bit of sweetness to your yogurt by adding fresh or frozen berries.

Shopping list:

  • 1% or 2% cow’s milk

  • Fortified and unsweetened soy milk

  • Yogurts with little to no added sugar

  • Cheese with <20% milk fat

Healthy Fats:

Fats are important for overall health, especially for growth and development in young children. Healthy fats include vegetable oils such as canola, olive, peanut, soybean, avocado, sunflower oils and soft margarine (labeled as non-hydrogenated). Limit unhealthy fat or saturated fat in your diet. Saturated fat is found in butter, hard margarine, lard as well as many baked goods.

Shopping List:

  • Vegetable oils such as canola, olive, peanut, soybean, avocado and sunflower oils.

  • Soft margarine

  • Mayonnaise

For more information on making healthier choices while grocery shopping, click here.

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