Health Encyclopedia

Stocking Your Kitchen With Healthy Foods

You've promised yourself to eat better, but then you realize: Where do I start? Try the grocery cart.

One way to ensure that you are able to prepare healthy meals is to buy healthy foods. If you have healthy snacks on hand, when the munchies strike, you can reach for fruits and vegetables instead of chips.

The following tips can help you choose healthy foods when you shop.

Fresh produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat and provide many essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. To buy the most nutritious produce:

  • Choose produce that's not bruised, wilted, or otherwise damaged.

  • Buy only what you can use within a few days.

Dairy

Milk products supply calcium, protein, vitamins A and D, and several B vitamins. To buy the healthiest dairy products:

  • Choose low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cream cheese.

Whole grains

The whole-grain group includes breads, crackers, cereals, pasta, and rice. These foods provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. To buy the healthiest grain foods:

  • Compare cereal labels and choose those that contain more than 3 grams of fiber and less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.

  • Pick brown rice instead of white rice. Try bulgur or kasha.

Meat and poultry

Meat and poultry provide protein, iron, B vitamins, phosphorus, and zinc. Products with lots of visible fat are high in calories and saturated fat. To buy the healthiest meat and poultry:

  • Purchase Select grade meats--they're the leanest. Next healthiest is Choice, then Prime, which is highest in fat.

  • Proper preparation can reduce fat calories. Remember to remove all visible fat before cooking.

Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood have less saturated fat than other meats and contain omega-3 fatty acids. To buy the healthiest fish and seafood:

  • Choose fresh fish that have firm flesh and no fishy smell.

  • Choose tuna packed in water.

Frozen and canned foods

Frozen and canned foods can be convenient, but some are more nutritious than others. To buy the healthiest frozen and canned foods:

  • Compare labels and choose products with less salt and fat.

  • Choose canned fruit labeled no sugar added or packed in its own juice.

  • Choose plain instead of sauced frozen vegetables.

  • Compare labels of frozen dinners and select those with the least fat, calories, and sodium.

Snack foods

Choose snacks that provide nutrients and satisfy cravings. To buy the healthiest snacks:

  • Choose baked tortilla chips instead of potato chips.

  • Select "light" instead of regular microwave popcorn.

  • Choose fruit-based cookies instead of chocolate.

Fats and oils

Fats and oils are needed for cooking. You can reduce your saturated-fat intake by buying low-fat products or those made with unsaturated oils. To buy healthy fats and oils:

  • Choose reduced-fat or fat-free versions of spreads and salad dressings.

  • Cook with monounsaturated oils, such as olive oil and canola oil.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Poulson, Brittany, RD