Make A Healthy Grocery Shopping List

Grocery basket with fruits and vegetables sitting in the middle of a grocery store aisle
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Research has found that people who take a list to the grocery store tend to not only eat a healthier diet, but are also more likely to be at a healthier weight. This makes using a grocery list as helpful for obtaining (and maintaining) a healthy weight as other lifestyle behaviors, such as being physically active and getting adequate sleep.

A healthy shopping list that provides these benefits includes a wide variety of whole foods. Unprocessed foods—foods as close to their natural state as possible—are best because they are higher in nutrients and contain less unhealthy substances, such as being too high in sugar.

If you want to eat more healthfully, take this list with you to the grocery and fill your cart with basic, good-for-you, and natural foods.

Bread, Cereal, and Grains

The healthiest options in this category are whole grains. These foods have been connected with a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. They also help your digestive system function better.

Here are a few whole grains to consider adding to your healthy grocery list:

  • Barley
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Couscous
  • Oatmeal (rolled oats or steel-cut oats)
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-grain bread, cereal, or pasta

If you do a lot of your own baking or cooking, using whole grain flours can make your recipes healthier. Whole-wheat flour and nut flour are two options to consider.

Many packaged cereals and bread products are loaded with sugar and refined starches. So, if you're looking to decrease your sugar intake, read the labels. Look for "added sugars" in the ingredient list to help limit your intake.

Pantry Staples

While it's true that many packaged foods are processed and, therefore, less nutritious, there are a few pantry staples that can still be good for your health. Ones to include on your grocery list are:

  • Canned veggies
  • Canned or dried beans
  • Dried lentils
  • Low-sodium broth
  • Olive oil

Some condiments and spices can also be healthy pantry items. Mustard, vinegar, salsa, and soy sauce will all give your meals a punch of flavor without adding a lot of additional fat or calories.

If you're unsure whether a specific boxed, canned, bottled, or bagged item is good for you, read the nutrition label . This ingredient list will reveal if it has any added sugar, salt, fat, or other substance that you may be trying to limit or remove from your diet.

Dairy and Eggs

Making sure dairy products are on your grocery list can help improve your bone health. This is because these items are high in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals that make your bones stronger, reducing your risk of fractures.

Items in this category that belong on a healthy shopping list include: 

  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs or egg substitutes
  • Milk
  • Yogurt or Greek yogurt

If you don't like cow's milk or can't drink it due to being lactose intolerant, there are several milk alternatives to consider. Soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk are a few.

When choosing non-dairy milks and yogurt, unsweetened versions can help you keep your sugar intake low.

Fruits and Vegetables

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines suggest that, for maximum health, roughly half of your plate should be full of fruits and vegetables. This equates to 2.5 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit each day.

Whole fruits are best and eating a wide variety of vegetables helps you get the most nutrients in your diet. If fresh produce is too expensive, buy frozen. If you decide to go with frozen, look for options that don't have any added syrups, salt, or sugar.

Some fruits and vegetables to stock up on, ensuring that you have enough on hand to meet the suggested guidelines, include:

  • Colorful, spicy veggies (peppers, radishes)
  • Crunchy snack veggies (carrots, celery, jicama)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, chard)
  • Easy-to-carry snack fruit (apples, bananas, oranges)
  • Fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
  • Sweet-tooth satisfying fruit (melon, pineapple, kiwi)
  • Versatile veggies for salads and sandwiches (tomato, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce)

You can talk to the produce manager to find out which items are in season and get creative ideas for using them in your meals.

Meat, Fish, and Tofu

Meat and meat alternatives supply the body with protein. Food-based proteins can help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, while reducing the risk of inflammation. They also help support muscle growth and function.

When it comes to fish, aim for at least one or two servings per week. Its omega-3s help boost heart health, prevent cancer, and may play a role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's. Bake the filets, use them in tacos, or simply serve them with fresh steamed veggies.

Here are a few protein sources that make good additions to a healthy shopping list: 

  • Poultry (lean ground turkey, skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin)
  • Red meat (lean steaks, lean ground beef, organ meats)
  • Seafood (shrimp, salmon, halibut, crab, canned tuna packed in water)

Ask your butcher about the leanest cuts of beef. He or she can often trim the fat off of your favorite steak to reduce the fat and calorie count.


Snacks can be a part of a healthful, well-balanced diet. They help tame your hunger until the next meal and help increase the likelihood that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need to be as healthy as possible.

What type of snack items belong on a healthy grocery list?

  • Beef or turkey jerky
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds

A Word From Verywell

With this healthy grocery list, you'll fully stock your kitchen with the best foods to help you live a healthier life. The main thing to remember is to choose whole, unprocessed, natural foods whenever you can. These provide the most nutrients possible.

Plus, when picking up boxed or canned items, reading the label helps ensure that the food has everything you want and nothing you don't. Many of these items can help enhance the flavor of your meals. It's just a matter of choosing the options that are best for your health.

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8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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