Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with a healthy shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge contain mostly healthy foods, everyone in your family is likely to eat better.
Surprisingly, healthier eating can lower your grocery bills too. It's true that ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods save time, but they can cost more and some have too much salt and fat.
Follow these tips to get the most nutrition bang for your buck.
Stock Up With Staples
These pantry basics will give you the foundation you need for better family nutrition at home.
- Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables
- Canned: Look for low-sodium vegetables and low-sugar or no-added-sugar fruits.
- Frozen: Use what you need for a meal, then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer.
- Dried: Check the label for and avoid added sugar, especially on fruits.
- Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and non-instant oatmeal
Steel-cut oatmeal costs just pennies per ounce and is a good source of fiber.
- Beans, lentils, and peas
Packed with protein and other nutrients, they're a great way to stretch your food dollar. Save! Use them in everything from soups to chili to burritos. Packaged dried beans cost less but take some planning to cook. Low-sodium canned beans are another option. Rinse canned beans to lower sodium even more.
- Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
- Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products
Children under the age of 2 should have whole milk unless there is a family history of obesity, heart disease, or high cholesterol. Then the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 2% milk from 12 months to 2 years of age.
Buy Healthy Snacks
How to keep your kids from going overboard on chips, cookies, and other snacks? Make it easy to find the healthy stuff.
Keep these healthy options on the center shelf of the fridge:
- cut-up fruit
- baby carrots and low-fat ranch dip
- string cheese
- hard-boiled eggs
- low-fat yogurt
And these on the counter:
- dried fruit and nut mix
- whole-grain crackers and peanut butter
3 Surefire Healthy Grocery Shopping Rules
To keep your food choices on track with your family's health goals, follow these three basic rules as you cruise the supermarket aisles.
Don't shop hungry. Ever notice what winds up in your cart when you shop with hunger pangs? Eat a nutritious snack beforehand so the munchies don't take control of your shopping.
Make a healthy shopping list. Even if you know what you need, a list saves time and prevents impulse buys. Organize your list into sections according to the store's layout. Shop for the healthy items first, picking up the treats last: dairy, produce, meats, canned and packaged items, frozen foods.
Hug the walls -- most of the time. Stay focused. Avoid parts of your grocery store with the unhealthy choices. The edges of the store (the perimeter) tend to have the healthiest choices. Detour down center aisles for beans, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and canned and frozen vegetables and fruit. Skip the aisles with chips and other temptations, or get only the items on your list. When you're grocery shopping with kids, the temptations can especially be distracting.