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Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Healthy eating is a beautiful thing. And it's not that difficult. A little planning -- and careful shopping -- go a long way.

"You can have healthy meals, and prepare them quickly and easily, as long as you have the right ingredients on hand," says Karen Cullen, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Indeed, wise shopping -- that's the crux of healthy eating, says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of the Tell Me What to Eat book series, and "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic.

"The lion's share of your pantry must be healthful -- including healthy versions of junk food," Magee tells WebMD. Through trial and error, she's found the low-fat treats her family likes. That includes ice cream (light types), even chips.

"I'm not a big chip craver, but plenty of people are," she says. Try different kinds of low-fat gourmet chips, she advises. Some are better tasting than others. Some are very satisfying, Magee says.

When it comes to her big loves -- such as chocolate -- Magee is a purist. "I don't believe in purging your kitchen of all the things you like. I always have some kind of chocolate around, so I know I can have chocolate when I want it. Therefore, I don't abuse it."

Our experts' shopping tips:

Stock smart:

  • Baked potato chips (low-fat)
  • Canned beans (lots of fiber)
  • Pizza sauce (for quick snacks)
  • Popcorn (low-fat, microwavable)
  • Pasta, all shapes and sizes
  • Low-fat wheat crackers
  • Regular oatmeal (microwavable)
  • Healthy granola bars
  • High-fiber, whole-grain bread ("Iron Kids" fiber-added bread is OK)
  • Fat-free refried beans (serve with reduced-fat tortilla chips)
  • Canned soup (low-sodium, low-fat types)
  • Jell-O cups, fruit rollups, or homemade trail mix with dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and nuts

Flaxseed is also on Magee's "healthy eating" list. "Flaxseed is one of those power foods, in terms of what it offers. It increases the fiber content of any food," she says. Flaxseed can be added to soups, stews, yogurt, breakfast cereal; use your imagination.


Buy frozen or fresh:

  • Frozen blueberries (for muffins and waffles)
  • Frozen spinach
  • Fresh carrots, broccoli, oranges
  • Fresh no-fuss "salads in a bag"
  • Fresh orange juice
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (freeze them)

Buy dairy carefully:

  • Light ice cream
  • Eggs and egg substitute
  • Fat-free half-and-half
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fat-free sour cream
  • Light cream cheese
  • Margarine (no-trans-fat types)
  • Light salad dressings

Make other changes:

  • Switch to 100% fruit juice instead of fruit drinks.
  • Use 100% whole-grain bread (not to be confused with whole wheat, which often just has molasses added for coloring and flavoring)
  • Buy whole-grain, ready-to-eat cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice
  • Add nuts, seeds, or fruit to salads
  • Eat more fish, poultry, and leaner cuts of meat
  • Add meatless entrees, stir-fry dishes, or other vegetables and grains into your menu
  • Beans, canned or dried, are a great source of fiber and protein and have virtually no fat
  • Keep applesauce on hand to substitute for oil in cakes and muffins (it doesn't work quite as well for cookies)

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