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    Hectic days and busy nights: Who has time to cook? That’s why many of us rely on the grab-and-go ease of processed foods.

    There’s a downside, though. These meals are often high in fat, salt, and sugar -- and low in nutrients that are good for you such as calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.

    Yet, you can work a better diet into your packed schedule if you shop smart and keep good-for-you foods handy.

    Lower Your Cholesterol

    A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and good fats can help lower what’s sometimes called “bad cholesterol.” You may hear your doctor call it “ LDL cholesterol.” You have a greater chance of getting heart disease when your LDL level gets too high.

    You get other benefits from these foods. They also:

    To help you make the best choices, here are lists of what to add to your shopping cart and what to avoid.

    Foods to Buy

    Focus on these when you’re at the grocery store -- and remember a farmer’s market might have some great picks, too:

    Produce: Look for colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, oranges, apples, yams, broccoli, spinach, and bell peppers. Naturally cholesterol-free and low-fat, fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a good diet.

    Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat offer up fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein. Look for breads, pastas, and cereals made with a variety of whole grains.

    You will need to avoid certain grains, though, if your doctor says you can’t eat gluten or you have celiac disease, which affects your small intestine.

    Be sure to read the labels to make sure the products you buy are also low in fat, sugar, and sodium.

    Meat and beans: Choose skinless cuts of chicken or turkey breasts, and lean cuts of meat such as pork tenderloin and beef round, sirloin, or tenderloin. Read labels to be sure the meat is at least 92% fat-free.

    Buy protein-rich beans such as black, soy/edamame, kidney, or garbanzo beans.