Your Ultimate Guide to Healthy Grocery Shopping
Grocery shopping, especially when you’re feeding a family, is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work! To make it easier for all of us, I’ve created this healthy grocery list. When you’re using a healthy grocery shopping list, you save time, money, and take the guesswork out of this weekly chore. You can use this healthy grocery list to make your own personal shopping list in just a few minutes. Plus, keep reading to learn how to grocery shop healthy on a budget!
Where Should I Shop to Get the Best Groceries?
Here are a few ways to use your healthy grocery shopping list to save money and make sure you’re getting high-quality food:
- Shop locally (using your healthy grocery list!) whenever possible. This puts money back into your community and helps support small farmers. Plus, the quality of food you’ll get is often incredible!
- Shop online for things like supplements, including collagen, mushroom adaptogens, and protein powder, to get the best prices.
- Look for bulk deals at your local grocery store or local food co-ops and stock up seasonally
Use Your Healthy Grocery List to Save Time and Money
Here’s how your healthy grocery shopping list on a budget can save you money:
- Use my master healthy grocery list below as a guide to put your personal list together. I make a personal list and update it weekly before I shop–it takes just a few minutes.
- Don’t shop without your healthy grocery list firmly in tow or you’ll risk overspending on impulse buys and items you already have.
- Utilize your local food delivery service, if you have one. Some people prefer picking out produce themselves, but you might actually be able to save money by avoiding impulse buys (not to mention all the time you’ll save).
- Stick to the perimeter of your grocery store–this is where the unprocessed, nutrient-dense food usually hangs out and where you’ll get more bang for your buck.
- Buy in bulk wherever possible on things like nuts, legumes, and seeds.
What Belongs on my Healthy Grocery Shopping List?
Fill Your Healthy Grocery List With Tons of Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs
If the bulk of your shopping cart is filled with fresh produce and high-quality meat, you’re in great shape. In fact, that’s usually my goal when I visit the grocery store: I stick to the perimeter of the store as much as possible to stock up on nutrient-dense food. When it comes to creating a healthy grocery list, here’s what you need to know about your produce selections:
Is Organic Worth It?
USDA Certified Organic produce is better for our bodies and the environment because it encourages the use of sustainable farming practices and provides us with nutrient-rich foods free of detrimental neurotoxins (1).
If you can’t afford to eat 100% organic then shop from local farmers. The next best thing is to avoid “The Dirty Dozen.” This is a list of the twelve most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables; it’s published annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Here’s the 2019 list:
If these fruits and vegetables appear on your healthy grocery list, make sure you’re getting them from a local farmer or you’re purchasing organic options!
The Clean 15
Below are the top food with the least amount of pesticides. Purchasing all organic produce can get really expensive, so if you need to steer away from all organic- choose to buy these.
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas Frozen
- Egg plant
- Honeydew Melon
High-Quality Protein for Your Healthy Grocery List: What’s the Difference Between Farm-Raised and Wild-Caught?
We’ve been encouraged to choose farm-raised fish because of overfishing concerns but unfortunately, fish farms aren’t helping with overfishing, and they’re much less healthy for us than (certain kinds of) wild-caught fish (2,3). The fish farms produce massive amounts of excrement that can’t be dealt with like it would be in the ocean.
Plus, fish in farms need growth hormones, antibiotics, and other kinds of “help” to deal with the harmful effects of being raised in static environments. Even worse, they produce fewer omega-3’s and more omega-6 fats than wild-caught fish, creating an artificial imbalance of omegas that is actually harmful to our health. Instead of farmed fish, look for sustainably sourced, wild-caught fish; my favorite is salmon!
Fish Options High in Omega-3’s and Lowest in Mercury:
When it comes to meat, dairy, and eggs, labels abound: grass-fed. Free-range. Pasture-raised. Organic. It can be confusing, but here’s a handy cheat sheet for your healthy grocery list:
- USDA Certified Organic on a label indicates that the animal was raised in a better environment than those raised in confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). Animals can’t be fed GMO products, pesticides, or herbicides, which means these toxins can’t be passed on to you. Organic animal products are also significantly more nutritious than their CAFO counterparts, which helps your dollar go further (4,5).
To be USDA certified organic, animals must have outdoor access and be fed organic feed. This means that these animals are exposed to fresh air, sunshine, and feed fed free of herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified ingredients. When possible, always choose organic animal products–unless you’re buying local (keep reading).
- Pasture-raised, grass-fed, or free-range indicates that the animal was or is raised with access to the outdoors (6). These are not well regulated terms, so unless the farm or ranch has obtained some kind of third-party certification, there’s no way to know for sure how these terms are being used. Does the animal get an hour or two of sunshine each day or is it completely raised, start to finish, on grass pastures? That being said, “cage-free” and “free-range” are completely different. Always opt for free-range whenever possible.
While any sun and outdoor exposure is better than none, the best way to know for sure is to purchase free-range eggs and pasture-raised or grass-fed meat and dairy from your local farmer and rancher or a trusted provider. You’ll be able to visually assess quality standards, plus local farmers and ranchers typically work hard to follow sustainable practices. This means their products are better for us and the environment, even if they don’t have an organic label, which is expensive to obtain and can be cost-prohibitive for small operations.
- One of my favorite ways to make sure I’m getting the best quality meat possible is to use a trustworthy vendor like ____________ (butcher box). <- US Wellness Meats – Login to 1Pass to grab the affiliate link for this
- In addition to being organic and/or locally sourced, bacon, sausage, salami, and other processed meat products should always be free of added sugar and preservatives, especially nitrates. So always choose “nitrate-free”.
A glass of milk is a staple food for most Americans. “You need the calcium!” doctors say. Truth is, a lot of other foods (ie kale) have way more calcium than milk does. Another problem is that most of the dairy milk available on the shelves today isn’t from happy, healthy cows, frolicking in green pastures–it’s from cows raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO), pumped with hormones and antibiotics, and feed grains. Fun fact: cows’ stomachs can’t actually break down grain that’s why they are giving antibiotics: so they won’t explode!
So, these cows that are fed genetically modified grain feeds have significantly altered milk content in ways that our bodies (and theirs) struggled to deal with. CAFO dairy cows are pumped full of artificial growth hormones so that they’ll produce huge volumes of milk year-round. Even organic milk, while better, is still pasteurized, and the high heat wreaks havoc on all the benefits of milk our ancestors used to enjoy, like uber-digestible raw fats and proteins, enzymes, antibodies, vitamins and minerals, and lactobacilli, which helps us digest milk easily.
The best option, if you can find it in your area, is raw milk from a local dairy farm. It’s not always easy to source, but even if you can’t find raw, grass-fed milk you can usually find raw, grass-fed cheeses to swap out for questionable, conventional cheese. Another terrific option is raw goat’s milk. If you or your children have trouble digesting cow’s milk, goat’s milk is a much gentler alternative.
Can’t find raw cow’s milk or goat’s milk? Try nut milk! There are tons of terrific nut options available, and while many of them can be purchased off the shelf, you can save money by making your own. Almond milk and cashew milk are two great kinds of milk that are easy to make yourself–and delicious.
If you do purchase nut milk in the store, make sure you read the ingredient list and watch out for preservatives (carrageenan is common, but it causes inflammation) and added sugar.
Another favorite is coconut milk. Typically found in a can, whole fat, unsweetened, organic coconut milk is delicious and packed with nutrients. It’s full of high-quality fat and has a natural sweetness that makes it perfect for everything from delicious curries to homemade popsicles to whipped cream.
Pantry Staples for Your Healthy Grocery List That Add Nutrients to Your Body, Not Rob You
Between the growing number of people with Celiac’s disease and the exploding number of autoimmune diseases (which are often made worse by gluten), our recommendation is to avoid gluten altogether– for at least 6 weeks to see if symptoms of fogginess, bloating, digestive issues, skin rashes, etc. subside (7). Even whole wheat and multigrain wheat products are rarely worth the gut inflammation gluten causes.
The fact is, wheat has been modified over the last five or so decades to contain a higher percentage of gluten. This extra gluten can lead to all kinds of problems, including leaky gut syndrome, but what’s worse is that wheat foods are almost always nutritionally empty, and take up space in our diets that high-quality vegetables and meats should be occupying.
If that’s not enough to convince you to drop the gluten, here’s another reason: most people report losing weight, getting rid of tummy bloat, losing brain fog, sleeping better at night, and simply feeling better when they get off of gluten (8).
You need to be careful, however, that you don’t replace gluten with gluten-free products that are highly processed and nutritionally deficient. The best thing to do is to replace nutritionally-empty breads, pastas, cereals, and snacks with vitamin- and mineral-rich whole foods (9).
A recent study in France found that adults who ate ultra-processed foods experienced higher mortality rates than those who ate less ultra-processed foods (10). Ultra-processed foods include:
- Most packaged snacks
- Cookies (even some of the “healthy” kinds)
- Most energy and granola bars
- Frozen dinners
Ultra-processed foods are found largely in the center aisles of grocery stores, while whole, fresh, unprocessed foods are usually found around the perimeter of the store. When it comes to creating a healthy grocery list–stick to the perimeter! Trading the “fake” fats, nutritionally empty, sugar- and preservative-loaded ultra-processed foods for nutrient-rich whole foods is one of the best changes you can make for your entire family’s health.
Spicing Up Your Grocery Life
The thing about choosing high-quality, organic produce and animal products is that they aren’t just better for you–they tend to taste better, too. Just try a locally grown, organic potato and compare it to what you’ve been eating all your life to see what I mean!
That said, if your body is still craving sugar and junk food, spices will be your best friend, and will help you and your family fall in love with healthy food. In addition to the spices I’ve included on my healthy grocery list, I like to keep essential oils on hand to cook with, including basil, thyme and oregano. A drop of cardamom in your morning coffee is amazing. You’ll feel like you’re at your favorite specialty coffee shop. These are delicious and super convenient ways to add tons of flavor to our food!
In an ideal world, all our nutrition would come through the food we eat. However, many of us are so deeply depleted that we need the extra help. Plus, due to over-farming techniques and bad soil management, the foods we eat today simply don’t have the vitamins and minerals they used to have. This means that a healthy grocery list has to include high-quality supplements.
My favorites include supplements like bone broth, magnesium, and mushroom adaptogens. I recommend making your own bone broth as much as possible (you can learn more about bone broth’s many incredible benefits here), but if that’s not possible for you, there are more and more high-quality bone broth options popping up on the market today in the frozen section and on the shelf. Look for a broth that’s so full of collagen it gels when it’s at room temperature.
Ready to get started with your own healthy grocery list?
The Ultimate Healthy Grocery List
Here is your ultimate healthy grocery list and corresponding recipes! Enjoy!
- Bok choy
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, thyme etc.
- Romaine Lettuce
- Squash: butternut, pumpkin, zucchini, spaghetti
Protein- always try for organic, grass-fed, non-GMO
- Chicken (whole chickens, breasts, wings, drumsticks, and thighs)
- Beef (roast, ground beef, and steaks)
- Pork (roast, chops, and ground)
- Seafood (wild-caught- can include cans)
- Nitrate free bacon
Dairy and Eggs
- Free range, organic eggs
- Full fat yogurt and kefir
- Goat cheese
- Nut milks (almond milk, macadamia nut milk, cashew milk, coconut milk.)
- Raw cow’s milk
- Raw goat’s milk
- Coconut aminos (gluten-free and soy-free alternative to soy sauce)
- Fish sauce (no sugar added)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dry-roasted nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, etc. (salted or unsalted)
- Ezekiel Bread, Siete Products (crackers, breads, mixes)
- Almond butter, sunflower butter, and cashew butter
- Organic canned tomatoes (paste and diced)
- Organic sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
- Unsulphured dried fruits (e.g., mango and apple)
- Paleo “granola”
- Raw honey
- Salsa (organic and free of added sugar and preservatives)
- Hot sauce (free of added sugar and preservatives)
- Stone ground mustard
- Organic maple syrup
- Organic roasted seaweed
Oils and Fats
- Grass-fed butter
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Spices & Baking
- Sea salt and himalayan salt
- Black and white pepper
- Bay leaf
- Smoked paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Almond flour/cassava flour
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
- Nutritional yeast
- Collagen (we love our Beauty Collagen Complex)
- Bone broth (frozen or on the shelf)
- Magnesium (we love our Hydration Superfood Energy for this)
- Mushroom adaptogens (we love our Immunity Greens packed with adaptogens for this)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- High-quality protein powder
- Organic frozen vegetables such as broccoli florets, green beans and cauliflower
- Organic riced cauliflower
- Organic frozen fruit for smoothies for quick snacks
- Organic Coffee
What else do you like to include in your healthy grocery list? Let us know below!
- Hari, Vani. “Why Choose Organic? 10 Reasons You Should Choose the Organic Label Over the Non-GMO Label.” Food Revolution, April 17, 2018. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/why-choose-organic/
- Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. “Wild-Caught vs. Farm Raised Seafood.” College of Health and Human Sciences, 25 Jan. 2019, chhs.source.colostate.edu/wild-caught-vs-farm-raised-seafood/.
- Axe, Josh. “The Dangers of Farmed Fish.” Dr. Axe, 12 Oct. 2018, draxe.com/the-dangers-of-farmed-fish/.
- Kesser, Chris. “Is Organic Meat Better?” Chris Kresser, April 26, 2019. https://chriskresser.com/is-organic-meat-better/
- Price, Annie. “6 Grass-Fed Beef Nutrition Benefits That May Surprise You.” Dr. Axe, Sept. 22, 2018. https://draxe.com/grass-fed-beef-nutrition/
- “‘Free Range’ and ‘Pasture Raised’ officially defined by HFAC for Certified Humane label.” Certified Humane, January 16, 2014. https://certifiedhumane.org/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officially-defined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label/
- Michaelis, Kristen, et al. “The Rise Of Gluten Intolerance.” Food Renegade, www.foodrenegade.com/the-rise-of-gluten-intolerance/.
- Chris Kresser. “Still Think Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Real?” Chris Kresser, Chriskresser.com, 9 Dec. 2016, chriskresser.com/still-think-gluten-sensitivity-isnt-real/.
- “Should We All Avoid Gluten?” Dr. Mark Hyman, 26 Sept. 2018, drhyman.com/blog/2018/09/26/podcast-ep20/.
- Schnabel, L., Kesse-Guyot, E., Alles, B., et al. (2019) Association Between Ultra-processed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179(4), 490-498. Abstract: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2723626