Many of my friends ask me…and in fact, I was asked twice just last week…what to buy at the grocery store. Everyone seems to have a tip on “how to eat,” but no one ever teaches “how to shop.” Even my mom gets frustrated and repeatedly tells me, “I know I need to eat healthy, but I just don’t know what to buy.” Some of my friends have actually asked me, jokingly, to go with them to the store; and the truth is, I probably would. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve accompanied a few people here and there–especially when they are new to shopping for “healthy foods.” Sometimes we just need a little guidance, and quite honestly, I’m surprised it took me this long to think about putting together a shopping list for my readers. So what I’m providing you with now is “MY” shopping list. It’s probably pretty typical for many people who train hard and want to look good, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, ask about your food item in the comments below and I’ll comment with my best advice.
I’m afraid that my grocery list won’t be very long but that’s because I tend to eat a lot of the same things day in and out. If you follow my pics on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I eat cauliflower and spaghetti squash with ground turkey and/or taco seasoning four times a week, and bacon every single Sunday. Sorry ’bout that. But I’ll try to include as much variety in the grocery list at the bottom of the article as I can. And though I rarely get bored of taco meat and bacon, I have gotten bored of some foods, so I definitely understand that you need options.
First things first: Hit up the veggies. I’ll be the first to admit, most of my veggies are the frozen steamer bags. Some people will argue that “fresh is better,” but I actually think my frozen veggies are best. Veggies that are flash frozen as soon as harvested are a great quality food because the freezing process keeps as many nutrients in the veggies as possible. Many “fresh” veggies lose their nutrient quality over time as they travel, sit on produce stands, get picked over, etc. So yeah, I love my steamer veggies. And I don’t always buy organic either–typically just spinach and berries, or those from the list that are highly sprayed with pesticides. If the fruit or veggie gets peeled, I save money and buy non-organic. MY LIST: I usually buy organic spinach, organic broccoli, organic and non-organic cauliflower, spaghetti squash, peas, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts. Other veggies that I pick up that aren’t frozen are carrots–great for snacking–and onions, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. Sometimes cucumbers. But I pick these because I like them, they’re great for snacking, and onions and mushrooms go well with ANYTHING. So pick what you like and eat it without regret.
I have a feeling that your next question will be, “What do I eat the veggies with?” And my answer is pretty simple. Put them in the crockpot with meats, seasonings, and salsa. I also like to saute veggies in coconut oil, or throw some in a pan with my bacon on Sundays. 🙂 I like hummus–such as Sabra, and for less calories, you can try salsa. I almost always keep some organic salsa on hand for dipping–you can’t go wrong with ten calories per serving. And when I’m desperate for dipping and can’t find anything else? Mustard has zero calories and goes really will with carrots, almonds, peppers, you name it. Ha, I know, I’m a little nuts, but we’ll get to that category later.
After veggies and dipping, circle around to the meat section of your store. If Erik were writing this article, he’d tell you to check the prices of different meats and buy what’s on sale. He’d also tell you that even though beef prices are up right now, that you should probably pick up a steak or two anyway. Click HERE to find out why. But since I’m writing this and because I tend to shop for my tastebuds instead of my wallet (which might explain why I’m always broke), then I would say to get as many cuts of lean, minimally processed meats as you can afford. Protein is the fitness enthusiast’s BFF. And you’ll need a lot–especially if you want to refuel your muscles, have a steady supply of aminio acid release throughout the day, and stay FULL all day! So load up. My faves are ground turkey, ground chicken, ground beef, and chicken breasts and thighs. Occasionally I like to pick up some bratwurst or turkey/chicken sausages. These sausages or even turkey sausages/chicken sausages are pretty high in sodium so I really try to avoid them, but when they’re on sale, I splurge. One thing about meat is that you want to avoid as much processed meats as possible. Processed meats like lunch meats, most sausuage, bacon, etc., contain nitrites and nitrates and a lot of the chemical processing is linked to all sorts of diseases such as cancer. I’ve read some articles that say they really aren’t that bad, and some that say they are, so I just “try” to avoid it as much as I can. As far as bacon, I’ve seen about three different brands that are “uncured” and “nitrite/nitrate” free. It might be a bit more expensive, but I pick them up when on sale. Click here to read about the 9 Ingredients Nutritionists Won’t Touch, including nitrites and nitrates.
And don’t forget fish! Fish is SO good for you; it’s packed with healhty omega 3s, and lean, and high in protein. A lot of fish can be found in single serving microwaveable packs–frozen, but no additives–so quick and easy for on the go. Whenever I find a good deal on fish–shrimp especially–I load up!
Moving around the store towards the diary aisle, I always pick up a half gallon or two of almond milk. There are several brands and several flavors, but I stick with the good ol’ fashioned 30-calorie plain (or vanilla), no sugar added variety. I’m a huge advocate for not wanting to “drink my calories,” so I want as few calories, carbs, and sugars as possible in this milk substitute. I, by the way, hate the taste of milk. It won’t be on my list. Erik, however, loves it and swears that organic milk tastes amazing. And my friend Myra just snapchatted me a couple days ago about a lower calorie, higher protein milk she found at Martin’s/Giant. She said it has 12g protein per serving and is thick–like cream. All the power to them–or you. I don’t like the taste of diary. I do, interestingly enough, LOVE cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is so full of protein and lower in fat and carbs and PERFECT for a nighttime snack with fruit. If you don’t like the texture? Try blending it with frozen fruit!
Another diary hit among the health conscious is Greek yogurt. I too, love Greek yogurt; it’s almost dessert-ish for me. Greek yogurt–especailly the “plain” ones–are ridicuously high in protein. I almost always get the plain ones and add things like cinnamon and walnuts or blueberries and stevia…that way, you get the added flavor but you can minimize the carbs/sugar/processing.
I buy eggs from cage free chickens…or should I say from chickens that have been raised cage-free? And I also buy the already hard boiled eggs (when I’m feeling lazy,) and I buy containers of liquid egg whites too. Eggs = protein and in a low fat, 1-carb per serving kind of protien way. I’ve often heard that eggs/egg whites are the lifter’s best friend. I use them to make protein pancakes, carb-free quiche, mini muffins, and just plain old bacon and eggs. Can’t get enough!
Last, we need some good fats. I tend to buy the 100-calorie packs of almonds, the single serving sizes of nut butters, (all natural of course), and oils such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Coconut Oil. In fact, I love coconut oil so much (I even put it in my coffee: Accelorator Shake Recipe!), that it’s the only oil I’ve used in over nine months. Fry chicken in it or saute your vegetables with it–you won’t be sorry!
You may have noticed that in this grocery trip, we neglected ALL the inside aisles and even the fruit stands and bakery. For some people, this is obvious: limit processed foods. You don’t want to buy anything that comes in a box or includes ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Eat them sparingly, when you crave them, but not all the time. In fact, eat most of them after your workout when your body will use them for muscle recovery and building. Eat whole grain pasta or brown rice if you want, but I typically substitute steamed cauliflower for potatoes and rice, and spaghetti squash for pasta in my recipes. When I eat my carbs, I reach for a sweet potato, grapefruit, or bowl of oatmeal. (Or sometimes all of it.) 😀 Eating healthy really is easier than you may think.
And as for fruit? I like berries. They’re low in calories, sugar, carbs, and HIGH in antioxidants. I get frozen organic berries and sometimes add them to my smoothies post workout or my cottage cheese at night. Sometimes I just keep them on hand for a sweet craving…I’ll grab a couple frozen strawberries or grapes and the craving for chocolate dies down soon after. A lot of people love bananas–they are loaded with potassium. I also love grapefruit, apples, applesauce, pineapple, and a nice juicy peach on a hot summer day! Some people will argue that most fruit has too much sugar…which is true. But that’s why I eat them around my workouts.
So that’s it folks…that’s my typical grocery list. What do think should be on it that isn’t? Do you have any questions on certain foods? And help us help others: What’s your favorite healthy food item?