5 Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping

SBM: 5-tips-for-healthier-grocery-shopping

Kelseanna Hollis-Hansen, MPH; Doctoral Candidate, University at Buffalo

When you think of “health decision making,” what comes to mind? Perhaps deciding whether or not to get a routine screening test, or the type of treatment you’ll choose to manage a health condition. Healthy eating also involves decision making and those decisions play a big role in health.

Shaping what you eat starts at the grocery store. We compiled five tips to help you stay focused, improve your grocery shopping, and keep the foods you want to avoid at the store, so that you don’t have to try and resist them at home.

Tip #1: Make a healthy grocery list of things to eat before you head to the grocery store.

If you’re newer to healthy cooking, pick out recipes or meals first, then build your grocery list from the meals you’d like to try, or the healthy meals you love. People don’t always like trying new foods or recipes with a million ingredients, but using sites or mobile applications like Mayo Clinic or Cooking Light, you can sort by your preferred healthy foods, the number of people you’re cooking for, specific dietary restraints, cooking times, cooking styles, and more. Carving out 15 to 20 minutes to plan some of your weekly meals and using a shopping list built from those meals have been associated with healthier food purchases, lower body weight, and greater weight loss!

Tip #2: Think about the future and your future goals while you’re shopping.

A technique called “episodic future thinking” has people imagine they are experiencing positive future events that could happen or that they actually have planned while they’re making decisions. EFT has helped people choose healthier snack foods, cafeteria meals, and groceries. Try to think about yourself experiencing the exciting events in your life, such as your friend’s birthday party, or your cousin’s wedding, and see if it helps you to make grocery decisions that are more aligned with your long-term plans and goals.

Tip #3: Grab a healthy snack for you (and your shopping buddies, if you have them!) to eat while shopping.

People buy more calories and make poor decisions while shopping hungry. Keeping yourself full and preoccupied can help you stick to your list and goals. Dr. Sherry Pagoto, Psychologist and President of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, successfully avoids food requests when shopping with her daughter by giving her some fresh watermelon to munch on while they stroll. Read more of her grocery shopping tips here!

Tip #4: Look for lower calorie, nutrient-filled replacements of your favorite snacks, also called “food swaps”.

We love crackers in my house. My family and I could easily devour a few sleeves of Ritz crackers with pub cheese. That’s something like 600+ calories or about two pounds of weight gain a week if we did that every day. It can be hard to give up snacks or desserts, and may be even harder for the other members of your household to give them up. Buying small quantities of healthier replacements is a good option that will keep your household from feeling deprived while curbing overeating of high calorie foods. Our current favorite “food swap” is Nut-thins crackers, which only use 130 of our daily calories for 19 crackers. There are entire websites dedicated to helping us find healthier alternatives to our favorite snack foods and meals.

Tip #5: Load up on fruits and vegetables, and consider all of your options when it comes to buying them.

Buying fresh fruits and vegetables “in season” is a long standing recommendation, and while we agree, if you choose the right frozen and canned vegetables, they can be just as good for you! Frozen and canned vegetables also last longer and often cost less. Just be sure to check the labels and pick low or no sodium vegetables and fruit in water (not juice or syrup).


Eating healthier starts with buying healthy food. Following these tips will help you choose the best healthy food during your weekly trip to the grocery store.

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