The Definitive Guide To Healthy Grocery Shopping

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

Grocery shopping is not easy. Supermarkets are designed to guide us around the perimeter of the store and to make trips up and down the aisles. Unsurprisingly, therefore, products located at the end of the aisles and checkout-counter displays account for nearly half of all sales. They are stacked with soft drinks, sweets, chips, and bakery goods.
 
If you are going to hit the shops, it’s important to take a list with you to ensure you don’t forget anything (see list below), because that will only result in your having to go back to the supermarket mid-week.


Not only will it reduce your chance of succumbing to temptation, it can save you money. It’s also vital to have a contingency plan in case your kid does throw a tantrum because the supermarket (full of food) is an environment where it’s likely to happen. Bearing in mind that some of the most common issues that cause children to act out in hostile ways include hunger, tiredness and boredom, make sure they have just eaten and are well rested before hitting the supermarket.

How planning for your grocery shopping trip can help you stick to a budget
 
To limit your exposure to these foods, your grocery shopping should be done once a week. If you really don’t trust yourself in the supermarket or if you find yourself eating a chocolate bar or packet of chips every time you go there, you should consider ordering everything online and having it delivered.

 
It is much better to do that than succumb to those impulse buys and poor food choices when at the supermarket. It can also be a less stressful experience than the risk of your kid having a tantrum or them nagging you the whole time to buy junk.

It can also be a less stressful experience than the risk of your kid having a tantrum or them nagging you the whole time to buy junk. In addition, the extra time you’ve saved from that risky shopping expedition can be devoted to some structured physical activity or one of your hobbies. The weekly food shop will not change much from week to week, which makes ordering online even easier as your foods will be saved from the previous week’s purchase.
 

How to write a grocery list
 
To avoid being overwhelmed on your first visit to the supermarket on the IWL plan, the following list can form the basis of your grocery shopping going forward. Keep a good supply of these foods in your kitchen, and when they start to run low make sure you add them to your shopping list before they run out.

 
This list can be tailored based on your preferences or dislikes (for example, if you don’t like corn, don’t buy it) and food-eating practices such as veganism. The most important thing to bear in mind is that each meal you cook will need to include plenty of salad or vegetables, as well as a whole grain carbohydrate, a source of protein and a source of fat.


Don’t be overwhelmed by this list; many of these items are staples that last for a long time, and for those who are beginners or have limited cooking skills, they can be accumulated gradually, as your confidence with cooking develops.
 

How to choose the right store
 
It’s sensible to break up the shopping so that you conquer it in sections. Get your fruit and vegetables from your local fruit shop, your meat from your local butcher, and your staples from one of the supermarket chains.

 

How to choose the best time to go to the store
 
It is important to only go shopping after eating a meal (preferably after breakfast, which is the biggest and most important meal of the day – more to come on this). This applies to both you and your kids if you have them.

 
The last thing you want is them causing a scene in the supermarket because they’re hungry. Going to the supermarket after eating will also prevent those impulse buys that we are inclined to make when we visit the grocery store hungry. It’s never the best feeling when you find yourself at the checkout chowing down on that packet of chips or chocolate bar before you’ve even left.

 

Ways to save money at the store
 
The amount of money you can save by shopping at one of the discount retail or wholesale chains is incredible. Sure, you might not get the same variety in product choice but it makes the shopping experience a whole lot easier when you don’t dither between sixteen different brands of the same food.

 
When you are comparing different varieties of the same food, make sure to check the price per 100 grams or 100 millilitres because this will enable you to determine the most cost-effective option.

 

How to navigate through grocery aisles
 
Most of the shopping can be done on the fringe or outside section of the supermarket, which is where all the fresh produce is located. Although, as I’ve mentioned, be wary of the ends of aisles, which brands pay to have their products located.

 
There are several aisles that can be skipped altogether, which are loaded with pre-packaged and processed foods that offer very little nutrition. Skip the ‘health food’ aisle, the chips, the confectionery and the pre-packaged products when you’re at the supermarket, so that you won’t be tempted by them inside the house. It’s much easier than being haunted by a block of chocolate, night after night.


Shopping list

To avoid being overwhelmed on your first visit to the supermarket on the IWL plan, the following list can form the basis of your grocery shopping going forward. Keep a good supply of these foods in your kitchen, and when they start to run low make sure you add them to your shopping list before they run out.
 
 This list can be tailored based on your preferences or dislikes (for example, if you don’t like corn, don’t buy it) and food-eating practices such as veganism. The most important thing to bear in mind is that each meal you cook will need to include plenty of salad or vegetables, as well as a wholegrain carbohydrate, a source of protein and a source of fat.
 
 Don’t be overwhelmed by this list; many of these items are staples that last for a long time, and for those who are beginners or have limited cooking skills, they can be accumulated gradually, as your confidence with cooking develops.
 
 Beverages: black tea, coffee, green tea, variety of herbal teas
 
 Condiments, sauces and pastes: balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, honey, minced garlic, ginger and chilli (all natural minced with vinegar only, and as a back-up only to fresh sources), kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), lemon juice, lime juice, maple syrup, miso paste, ready-made salt-reduced vegetable/chicken/beef stock, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, tahini paste (hulled or unhulled), wholegrain mustard, 100 per cent nut butter
 
 Dried herbs and spices: basil, black pepper, chilli flakes, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, mixed herbs, mustard seeds, oregano, paprika salt, thyme, turmeric
 
 Dried goods: baking powder, breadcrumbs, couscous, cornflour, egg noodles, pulses (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, split peas), rice (basmati, brown, arborio), rice noodles (vermicelli), salt-reduced stock cubes, sugar, unsalted dry-roasted or raw nuts, variety of seeds (sunflower, flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame), various types of pasta (including wholemeal and wholegrain), wholemeal flour (plain and self-raising), variety of wholegrains such as whole barley, buckwheat, bulgur, freekeh, oats, quinoa (but there are plenty more to choose from the list below and it is important to try a variety to see what you prefer)
 
 Frozen food: mixed berries, edamame beans, filo pastry, frozen vegetables (all varieties)
 
 Fruits and vegetables: all types
 
 Long-lasting vegetables: garlic, ginger, onions, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato
 
 Oils: olive or canola oil
 
 Perishables: eggs, milk, yoghurt (no added sugar) or Greek-style yoghurt, wholegrain bread, fish, meat
 
 Tinned or jarred food: beetroot, black beans, brown lentils, cannellini beans, capers, corn, chickpeas, chargrilled capsicum strips, corn, fish (tuna or salmon in spring water or olive oil), lentils, olives, pineapple, red kidney beans, three-bean mix, tomatoes, low-salt tomato paste
 
 To elaborate on the foods included on this shopping list they are best broken up into several categories including fruits and vegetables, wholegrain carbs, lean protein, healthy fats, snacks and spreads, and condiments.

Most of the shopping can be done on the fringe or outside section of the supermarket, which is where all the fresh produce is located. Although, as I’ve mentioned, be wary of the ends of aisles, which brands pay to have their products located.

About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.