7 Items to Include on Your Grocery List
(Take the Guesswork Out of Grocery Shopping with these Helpful Tips)
By Tiffany Batsakis, O2X Nutrition Specialist, MS, RD, LD
Creating a grocery list is a useful habit that is fairly simple and often overlooked. But it can be an incredibly helpful and time (and money) saving practice!
Writing your list at home before you shop means you can ensure you’re only buying foods you need. You can take time creating your list according to the layout of your local grocer, which can save you time while in the store. And sticking to your list can keep you from buying unnecessary (or unhealthy) items that catch your eye.
Go-to Foods to Add to your List
If this task feels intimidating, we’re here to help! We have some “go-to” foods you should incorporate on your weekly food-shopping trip. These are nutrient dense, affordable items that fit within a holistic approach to healthy eating. (I recommend starting with some items on the perimeter of the grocery store, and then venturing to some of the center aisles for a few staple items.)
7 Items to Include on Your List
- VegetablesThis may seem obvious, since we all know the benefits of incorporating veggies into our diets, yet when surveyed, most people report they don’t eat enough. A 2014 study found that out of 45 different fruits and vegetables, the most nutrient-dense vegetables included watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, and leaf lettuce (1). So, more reason to eat your leafy greens!
- Mixed BerriesFruit in general is a great snack, but berries, in particular, have high levels of bioactive compounds and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help take up free radicals, which are naturally occurring in the human body due to normal metabolic processes, but when too many radicals accumulate over time, they can increase the risk of diseases, such as cancer (3). Using food as a tool to fight this process is helpful, and naturally sweet tasting berries are a good way to do it! Fresh berries are great, but frozen varieties at your local grocer can be used too.
- Chicken Breast/Lean meat Protein quality is assessed through a complex process. While eggs have the highest protein score at 97, meat and fish are not far below, scoring a 94. Additionally, lean meats and fish provide a good amount of protein for your calorie intake. A 4-ounce serving of chicken breast provides about 26 g of protein and 130 calories, while a 4-ounce serving of ground beef provides nearly 300 calories. A 2018 study that analyzed protein intake among firefighters concluded, “Encouraging firefighters to increase protein intake may be an effective initial strategy to improve the macronutrient composition of their diet and body composition and reduce health and occupational safety risks associated with obesity” (5). Lean protein like chicken, fish, pork tenderloin, 96/4 lean ground beef, and eggs are quality sources of protein that can be included at mealtime.
- Wild-caught Salmon Wild-caught salmon and other cold-water fatty fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats have numerous benefits and may improve cognitive function, decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease, play a role in cancer prevention, decrease inflammation (6), and even be used as a treatment for major depressive episodes (7). Considering firefighters and other tactical athletes have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression, O3 intake from food can serve as a natural form of medicine! The American Heart Association recommends two servings of cold water fatty fish per week (salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring), with one 4 oz. serving of salmon providing nearly 2 g of EPA and DHA collectively, helping you meet these recommendations. Canned options of wild caught salmon are available, and sardines and mackerel can be found close by.
- Greek Yogurt and Kefir Probiotics are bacteria that live in our gut, and research is showing more and more benefits of fostering a healthy gut environment. Different bacterial strains have different affects on the body. A great way to get in some probiotics is through food, and fermented dairy products, like yogurt and kefir are quality sources. Low sugar options should be your first choice and these dairy based foods are often high in protein, especially Greek yogurt. While you can buy non-dairy yogurts, often times, these options are not as high in protein, but they do provide probiotics.
- Beans I often joke that I am the “Bean Queen,” as this is a food I often recommend for a variety of reasons. First of all, beans are considered a complex carbohydrate. They are high in fiber. Fiber helps attenuate blood glucose levels and provides lasting energy, all while keeping you full. Beans also serve as a source of plant-based protein. While not as high as the lean meats mentioned above, ~12 g/cup can contribute to daily needs. Beans are also high in nutrients. Beans and legumes are also rich in bioactive compounds which function in a variety of processes related to metabolism and physiology (11). Combined, all of these beneficial components can help prevent chronic disease and serve as a tasty and affordable food source.
- Mixed Nuts Like beans, nuts are nutrient-dense foods that have bioactive compounds. Their unsaturated fats keep us feeling full and can aid in weight control, and their unique make up may improve health outcomes overall. Because different nuts contain different nutrients, it is important to vary intake. Walnuts, for example, are touted for their ALA, a plant-based source of Omega-3 fats (13), beneficial for the brain. Almonds are known to be high in calcium, providing 75 mg/serving (14), and Brazil nuts provide more selenium than any other food, at 989% of the DV (15), so one to two per day will do the trick! If all that isn’t a good enough reason to put nuts on your grocery list, they are also a super convenient, easily transportable, satisfying snack!
Repeat the List:
I always recommend eating a nutrient-dense, varied diet within your caloric needs, and all of these foods are just that. It is important to get macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat with vegetables at each mealtime. Additionally, we encourage you to choose quality snacks that fuel you in between meals, like nuts with fruit or Greek yogurt with mixed berries.
Keep these foods on repeat and reap the benefits of some nutrient-dense meals and snacks.