How to grocery shop like a dietitian

Posted September 4, 2016
Updated October 28, 2016

The grocery store is intimidating, even for a registered dietitian who has extensive training to decipher nutrition information.

You can find a rainbow of ready-to-eat produce next to aisles full of cleverly marketed highly processed foods that could derail your health goals.

With all your best intentions you can leave with half of your cart filled with nutrient dense foods and the rest with pricey impulse buys that are less than nutritious. Here is a quick guide to make your grocery trip a healthy & quick one.

  1. Go with a plan. Although this is nothing groundbreaking, it’s vital to getting the nutrient dense foods you need to power your week. Focus on your grocery list instead of the attention grabbing marketing of what’s in the aisles.
  2. Read nutrition labels instead of the front of the box. So many companies use meaningless ‘health’ terms to pull you in. Unfortunately, they may not tell the whole truth. Here are a few places to focus on instead of what’s on the front of the box: total calories, servings per container, sugar content, fiber, fat content, and the ingredient list to see what’s in your food. Look for yogurts with less than 15 grams sugar, cereals with less than 8 grams sugar and at least 4 grams fiber per serving, and breads with at least 2-3 grams of fiber per slice.
  3. Fill your cart with fruits and vegetables. MyPlate ( recommends half your plate to be filled with fruits and vegetables. Fill half your cart with produce to get five servings a day.
  4. Shop the frozen section. Does your fresh produce always go bad before you eat it? Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their prime freshness, and they last way longer than anything fresh. Just watch out for added sugar, salt and sauces. Frozen raw meats are also a great purchase. They’re typically less expensive than what you can find at the meat counter and can be just as high quality and healthy.
  5. Compare unit prices. Here’s a final budget saving tip: different brands can come in different package sizes, instead of whipping out your calculator, compare the unit price, that’s in ounces or grams so you can see which option is a better deal.
Do you still want more help? Contact a local registered dietitian to help you navigate the store. Now that you have these healthy shopping tips, you’re a grocery store guru. Go buy healthy!


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