A Healthy Shopping List Can Make a Difference

Updated on October 16, 2018
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I have worked hard to stay fit and understand the complex relationship between aging, nutrition, and exercise.

What Foods to Buy for Weight Loss?

This is an important question, because a healthy shopping list is where your weight loss begins. I know this is true because it has worked for me -- at 55, my body fat is under 16% and I recently completed a half-triathlon. After many years of learning how to stay lean and fit, I have developed an all-purpose healthy shopping list that I use, in one form or another, whenever I go to the grocery store. From this list, you will have all of the necessary ingredients to make food that will give you a balanced, healthy diet.

This shopping list will give you the nutrients you need for about a week. What you do with the ingredients, and how you serve them, depends on your time in the kitchen. Once you know what foods to buy for weight loss, everything else follows naturally.

Fair warning: You will be cooking. There's almost no healthy-eating plan that will work without some kitchen time on your part.

Your Lean Shopping List

  • chicken breasts
  • ground turkey
  • sliced turkey and/or ham at the deli
  • fish or shrimp
  • canned black beans (or other beans)
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • string cheese (a perfect, filling snack)
  • butter (yes, butter -- high in calories, but not as bad as you think)
  • plain Greek yogurt
  • all-natural, low-sugar granola
  • whole wheat bread
  • triscuit crackers
  • peanut butter
  • cheerios (no breakfast cereal at all would be better)
  • old-fashioned oatmeal
  • dark chocolate
  • dried apricots
  • natural salsa
  • baked snack chips (a little better than regular fried chips)
  • any and all fruit: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, mangoes, oranges, etc
  • any and all vegetables: avocados, asparagus, spinach, potatoes, broccolli, carrots, etc

So you see -- you're going to be eating REALLY well! A healthy fat-loss diet doesn't have to be bland or boring. It all begins with a healthy shopping list that guarantees you'll have the right ingredients on hand for a week of good eating.

What's NOT on the List

Notice what's NOT on your healthy shopping list:

  • "Lean Cuisine" and other super-processed "healthy" products -- basically, nothing from the freezer section.
  • fruit juice, including orange juice -- pure sugar!
  • ice cream
  • cookies
  • anything from the bakery
  • anything from the prepared food "hot bar"
  • fried chips/snacks
  • pasta
  • white rice
  • white bread

This is a general idea of what an "unhealthy shopping list" might look like. It's heavy on processed food and grains, sugar, salt, and fried snacks. Avoid these items at the grocery store, and you have already won a major victory.

You Can Do This.

Yes you can. Your first victory is coming home with a car full of healthy groceries. Make this a habit, and you will find your diet changing for the better. When you have healthy food in your house, you just naturally eat better. Eating well is more important than exercise if you want to lose weight and burn fat. The old saying is true -- "You can't outrun a bad diet."

Weight-loss Grocery Shopping Tip 1: Don't Shop Hungry

It's amazing how much this matters. When we shop hungry, more food winds up in the cart. And most of that food will be impulse buys that we can definitely do without. You know the scenario -- you're trying to be good and lose weight so you're cutting calories, which makes you hungry a lot of the time. And then boom -- you're at the grocery store and you've blown up your carefully-planned healthy shopping list. Being hungry is a normal part of losing fat and getting lean, but the last place you want to get the munchies is at the grocery store.

Whenever I'm shopping and I'm feeling hungry, I get a pound of lean turkey at the deli. It's already weighed and priced, so it doesn't matter if I hit that while I'm roaming the aisles. That and a few grapes -- not weighed and priced, but a few free grapes won't do much harm -- and my hunger pangs subside and my head clears and I can shop like I'm serious about losing weight. Often I'll put back items I grabbed while I was starving!

So have a snack before you go, but if you're stuck, have a little lean deli snack while you're shopping. You'll feel better and shop better, and ultimately, you'll look better, too.

Healthy Foods to Buy at the Grocery Store

* Legumes like beans and lentils

* Lean proteins like chicken breast and Greek yogurt

* Whole grains

* Fruits of all kinds

* Vegetables of all kinds

* Cheese

* Healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil

Healthy Grocery Shopping Tip 2: Don't Shop in the Middle

This time-honored technique for healthy grocery shopping recognizes the fact that impulse and less-healthy items tend to be in the center areas of the store. While it isn't a hard and fast rule, this principle does make you aware of your surroundings, and of how the grocery store is designed to get you to spend as much as possible.

The next time you're shopping, try paying attention to the position of various foods. You may find that by shopping around the edges, you avoid some of the less-healthy shopping list options.

Weight-loss Grocery Shopping Tip 3: Don't Shop Without a Healthy Grocery List

It's hard sometimes to be prepared for everything in a busy life, but preparing for a trip to the grocery store will pay off in ways that you will appreciate in the long term. A healthy shopping list can make the difference between a grocery cart full of simple sugars and processed junk, and a cart full of well-chosen whole foods, lean protein, and complex carbs.

A smart, healthy shopping list like the one I put together here (above) is where your new, lean body begins. I sometimes sit in my car in the parking lot and jot down a list -- it's better than walking in under the illusion that you can remember what you should get. Shopping without a thought-out grocery list is dangerous, and can set you up with a week's worth of groceries that you know you shouldn't even be eating.

Unhealthy Foods to Avoid at the Grocery Store

* Processed food with a lot of ingredients

* Baked goods with lots of sugar

* Crackers, cereals and breads that are not whole wheat

* Chips and other fried snacks

* Ice cream, cookies, and other sugar-based foods

* Juice of all kinds -- it's just sugar

Weight-loss Grocery Shopping Tip 4: Choose Your Grocery Store Carefully

Not all grocery stores are created equal. You can work hard on crafting a perfectly healthy grocery list, and then choose a store that doesn't have what you need. On the other hand, you do not need to go to a boutique "healthy grocery" and spend half a year's wages on a week's worth of groceries. There are a growing number of grocery stores that are both healthy and affordable. Take your list to them, and get lean in the middle, not lean in the wallet.

Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. If you have a healthy lifestyle, your diet and nutrition are set, and you're working out, you're going to feel good.

— Jason Statham

Shopping Smart: How Long Does it Take to Lose Weight?

Losing fat and getting leaner takes time. If you're ready to make a long-term commitment to healthy grocery shopping, then you're already ahead of most people. The idea that you can change the way you look in a few days, or even a few weeks, is a false concept that has been sold by the weight-loss industry to people motivated to change. It's a shame, really, the way big-money diet blogs and writers don't really care if you succeed, as long as you pay up front for whatever magic weight-loss product they're peddling this month. You know it's true, I know it's true -- so let's do something about it!

All we need to do is make some changes and stick to them. And the first change begins at the grocery store. It begins with the food you put in your basket. It begins with your healthy shopping list.

Can You Lose 10 Pounds in a Month Using a Healthy Shopping List?

I love this question. It's so arbitrary, but so important to so many people. The answer may surprise you.

First, let's assume you want to lose fat. The other options are losing water and losing muscle. Losing water means nothing, since it will come right back. Losing muscle is bad -- if your body is burning its own muscle for food, you are literally starving to death. So we're losing fat.

There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. That means you have to burn 3500 more calories than you eat to lose one pound.

There are 35,000 calories in ten pounds of fat.

There are 31 days in most months. To cut those 35,000 calories in that pound of fat, you will have to maintain a consistent, every-day calorie deficit of 1,129 calories.

If you're an average woman who takes in 1600 calories to maintain her weight, you're now down to under 500 calories a day. For an entire month.

So no, you cannot lose 10 pounds of fat in a month.

You Can't Outrun a Bad Diet!

What is a 1200 Calorie a Day Diet? Is it a Good Idea?

A 1200 calorie a day diet is a restrictive diet that provides just enough for you to keep going. Much depends on who you are and how you live your life -- if you're an average-sized man, 1200 is really not enough to keep your body from going into starvation mode, which is bad (zero energy, mood swings, your body consuming its own muscle to survive, that kind of thing). If you're female, 1200 calories might be enough to keep you going, and you will lose weight. But is it sustainable? Not really. You'll be uncomfortably hungry almost all the time, and if you work out or have an active life-style, then you'll really suffer.

To determine how to sensibly and successfully get lean, you'll need to calculate your daily calorie expenditure. For most men, it's about 2000; for most women, it's about 1600. Yours will vary depending on your age, how active you are, and other features. There are decent online calculators that will give you a good idea of how many calories your burn in a day.

Once you know your calories burned per day, you can start figuring out how many calories you should eat in order to maintain a calorie deficit and lost fat. This is where your healthy shopping list comes in. In my experience, a calorie deficit of 300 a day is just about the most you can live comfortably with, and even then you'll have many days when you just don't reach that goal. Depending on how much you want to lost, you'll need to play around with the numbers to find the right daily calorie deficit that works for you.

Other Good Weight-Loss Resources on Caloriebee.com and Delishably.com!

Here are some good resources if you're ready to get serious and commit to using your healthy shopping list to eat smart:


The following sources were used for this guide:




*DISCLAIMER -- I am not a medical professional. This guide should not be used to treat or diagnose any illnesses or serious health conditions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      23 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hello Diana, what's stopping you? Go ahead. Make also copies of the list and put same in your car, and kitchen.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      23 months ago

      I think I need to carry your list with me on shopping trips. It would keep me on track. Healthy eating is rewarding over time.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      23 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi, Paddygsound, I agreed with you. The information therein is very vital. greenmind has done a great job.

    • Paddygsound profile image


      23 months ago from Australia

      What a great article. It is great to have this information condensed into one useful source.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 

      23 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      Really well detailed healthy shopping guide. You made a good distinction about losing fat vs. weight. The shopping tips were very helpful.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      23 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hello GreenMind, this is excellent. All the natural foodstuff you list are also excellent. However, I will take out a quote from this article for a hub in the making..."Eating well is more important than exercise if you want to lose weight and burn fat." Thank you.


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