It’s inevitable – as a registered dietitian nutritionist people are interested in what I eat. When I run into friends at the grocery store, I often get apologies for the less healthy items in their carts and sideways glances at what I have in mine. I like to remind them that I’m not the food police, and in addition to being a dietitian nutritionist, I’m also a wife, mother and human being. And I love food!
So how do I balance all of these things when I shop for groceries? Menu planning, as I discussed last month, is really key. I also consider nutrition, cost and what my family likes to eat (pleasing a 3- and 6-year-old isn’t always easy, and if they don’t eat it, it isn’t doing them any good!). One recommendation is to keep a fairly well-stocked kitchen so you never hear complaints about not having food in the house. Staying stocked on staples means I focus more on the fresh items on a weekly basis. Here is a snapshot of my typical grocery list and some relevant tips on cooking necessities, convenience and every child’s favorite request – “snacks”:
- Soy milk (my husband’s preference)
- Greek yogurt (both plain and flavored varieties)
- Butter and buttery spread (I prefer the Smart Balance brand)
- Cheese (parmesan, reduced fat cheddar and mozzarella)
- Eggs (not a dairy product, but typically found in that section of the grocery store)
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Whole grain crackers
- Rice (sometimes I substitute freekeh or quinoa)
- Whole grain cereal (my children love Cheerios!)
Fruits and Vegetables
- Fresh fruit (I usually keep 4-5 different types on hand each week)
- Fresh vegetables (usually carrots, salad greens, onions, sweet potatoes and whatever else I might be cooking that week that is in season or looks good)
- Frozen fruit (I always have frozen berries in the freezer)
- Frozen vegetables (I always keep my freezer well-stocked with at least 5 different ones)
- 100% fruit juice
Depending on my menu plan, I buy a variety of lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey and pork every week as well as fish and shellfish. I also keep a good bit in the freezer. I cook at least one vegetarian entrée every week, typically using beans, lentils or tofu.
I keep my pantry stocked with a wide variety of baking ingredients and cooking items. I use white whole wheat flour almost exclusively in all of my baking, though I do keep some all-purpose flour around for occasional use. For sweeteners, I use sugar, light brown sugar, maple syrup and honey, depending on the recipe and the taste profile I want. For cooking oil, I primarily use extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. I also keep a slew of dried herbs and seasonings on hand, including vinegars (name it, I probably have it in my cabinet) and Asian sauces (reduced sodium soy, oyster, hoisin and fish sauce to name a few).
There are definitely some convenience products I can’t live without. As I mentioned, I keep lots of frozen fruits and vegetables in my freezer. I buy big jars of minced garlic from my warehouse club because we use so much of it. For canned items, we generally have a variety of tomato products, canned pumpkin, beans, coconut milk and a few cans of soup in stock. I also use dried whole grain pasta and jarred pasta sauce.
Snack foods generally include nuts, seeds, peanut butter and dried fruit (raisins, cranberries and apricots are my family’s favorites). Of course if my husband is doing the grocery shopping, a bag of chips is likely to be found in the pantry. We also have one small bin of candy (and of course chocolate) in our pantry for the occasional treat.
So there’s a glimpse into my grocery shopping habits! When it comes to healthy eating, it’s all about balance.