How to Create a Healthy Shopping List


With a busy lifestyle, it’s often difficult to find the time to shop for healthy food. Unless you prepare ahead of time, chances are you will often grab food that is fast and convenient, but not necessarily good for you. Creating a healthy shopping list will help you stick to your healthy eating plan while cutting down food cost by eating more meals at home.

The first step is to organize your shopping list by aisle. Follow these simple tips and fill your basket with healthier food options from each aisle below.  


Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and locally grown. Precut fruits and vegetables will also save you time. When selecting produce, look for a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables as they provide the most nutrients.

  • Fruits: Bananas, apples, oranges, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries
  • Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, baby spinach, broccoli, carrot sticks

Dairy, Cheese and Eggs

Dairy products should be used in moderation. If you enjoy whole-fat cheeses like Parmesan or goat cheese, you can use them in smaller portions. Avoid pre-sweetened or flavored yogurts which tend to be higher in sugar and calories. Instead, buy plain yogurt and add a tablespoon of fresh fruit or jam for flavor.

  • Skim or low-fat milk, nut milk (almond, coconut, cashew), hemp milk, oat milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt, fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat cheese or string cheese snacks
  • Eggs or egg substitutes
  • Firm tofu
  • Butter or spread that do not contain hydrogenated oils

Meat and Seafood

Instead of ground beef, eat ground chicken or turkey as they are much lower in fat. Add in condiments for extra flavor. If buying red meat, choose leaner cuts which usually have less marbling.

  • Skinless chicken or turkey breasts
  • Ground turkey or chicken
  • Salmon, halibut, trout, mackerel, or your favorite seafood
  • Reduced-sodium lunchmeat (turkey, roast beef)

Frozen Foods

    Frozen vegetables are a great way to save time when making soups, casseroles and stews. Low-fat frozen yogurt is also ideal for blending with frozen fruit to make a quick, healthy smoothie.

    • Frozen vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, peas, and carrots (no sauce)
    • Frozen fruit: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (without added sugar)
    • Frozen shrimp
    • Pre-portioned, low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt
    • Whole-grain waffles

    Bakery Items and Bread

      Choose whole-grain breads that contain 3 to 4 grams of fiber and have fewer than 100 calories per slice. Be sure to look for labels that have “whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient.

      • Whole wheat bread, pita pockets, and English muffins
      • Whole-grain flour tortillas

      Pasta and Rice

      Whole-grain and multigrain options will provide more benefits and are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium.

      • Brown rice
      • Whole wheat or whole-grain pasta

      Cereals and Breakfast Foods

      Always choose cereals and cereal bars that are high in fiber and low in sugar. You can add berries, dried fruit or nuts to add flavor and sweetness to your cereal.

      • Whole-grain or multigrain cereals
      • Steel-cut or instant oatmeal
      • Whole-grain cereal bars

      Snacks and Crackers

      When you’re on-the-go, having healthy snacks around is key to eating healthy. Choose snacks that give you energy as well as nutrition value to keep you going.

      • Whole-grain crackers
      • Dried fruit: Apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, cranberries
      • Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios (roasted and unsalted)
      • Seeds: Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole or ground flaxseeds
      • Peanut, almond, or cashew butter
      • Hummus
      • Dark chocolate pieces with more than 70% cocoa

      Oils, Sauces, Salad Dressings, and Condiments

      High sodium and sugar may be hiding in the foods you buy, especially in the sauces, dressings, and condiments that you add to your food. When available, choose low sodium and sugar-free options.

      • Tomato sauce
      • Mustard
      • Barbeque sauce
      • Red wine vinegar
      • Salsa
      • Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, nonfat cooking spray
      • Jarred capers and olives
      • Hot pepper sauce

      Soups and Canned Goods

      Buying canned food is also a great way to save time. Make sure to check the label and choose lower-sodium canned vegetables and soups. When buying canned fruits, choose brands that are packed in juice and not heavy syrup.

      • Diced or whole peeled tomatoes
      • Tuna or salmon packed in water
      • Low-sodium soups and broths
      • Black, kidney, soy, or garbanzo beans; lentils, split peas
      • Diced green chili peppers


      When buying juice, make sure it’s 100% fruit juice and not a “juice drink” or “ade.” One simple trick to make a refreshing drink is to add fruit juice to sparkling water.

      • Unsweetened green and flavored teas
      • Calcium-fortified orange juice
      • Sparkling water

      As always, before making any significant changes to your diet, make sure to consult with your doctor.

      For more healthy tips, visit our Health Education Library.

      The content provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health provider prior to changing your diet, starting an exercise regimen, or with any questions that you may have about your health or medical condition.