Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips

A balanced and healthy diet plays a key role in maintaining and restoring health.
A balanced menu is the first step to healthy living, contributing to the prevention of diseases, increasing vitality and creating a predisposition for daily activities.
But what is the first step? Planning ahead!
Having a well-organised, well-planned grocery list will not only get you in and out of the supermarket quickly, it will also keep your healthy eating plan on track.
Healthy eating doesn’t necessarily start in your kitchen, it begins before you go shopping with a well-planned grocery shopping list.
So the first step to healthy cooking is to stock your kitchen with a variety of food that you can throw together for healthy meals.
Now, let’s go shopping!
Here are a few tips to bear in mind when making up your shopping list:

Fruit and Vegetables

▪ Be sure to buy a variety of fruit and vegetables in season (eat minimum 2-3 portions of fruit and 400gr of vegetables per day)
▪ When fresh vegetables aren’t available, choose frozen or canned vegetables and fruits without added sugar or salt.
▪ Buy fibre rich fruit and vegetables (ideally 30gr to 40gr daily), including beans, cabbage, water cress, plums, pineapple, etc. To achieve this, one needs to consume 2 different types of fruit and soups or salad twice a day.
▪ Stock up on raw vegetables for snacks, such as carrots and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes with a health dip such as hummus/guacamole.
▪ Try not to buy pre-packed fruit juices, they are usually high in added sugar. Instead, prepare homemade fruit juice (no more than two different types of fruits). In order to prevent a fast absorption of the natural sugar contained in fruit (fructose), add aromatic herbs or vegetable (coriander, mint leaves, watercress).

Eggs and Dairy Products

▪ Select fat-free or low-fat milk.
▪ In case of lactose intolerance, choose drinks with a vegetable base, such as oat, almond, rice, soy, without added flavouring, as they usually have added sugar and extra calories.
▪ Low-fat Greek yogurt without added fruit (these have a higher protein content that will keep you satiated for longer periods).
▪ Choose fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat cheese (goat/sheep are the best option, as they are easier to digest).
▪ Prefer free range eggs (one per day, if you don´t suffer from high cholesterol)
To cook omelettes, use two egg whites for each egg yolk. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol so in this way the amount of cholesterol intake is reduced.

Meat and Fish

▪ Choose fish over meat. It is recommended that one’s menu should consist of a fish dish at least 3 to 5 times a week. Good choices include salmon, trout, tuna, herring, etc.
▪ If you can’t get fresh fish, buy frozen, but pay attention and avoid buying frozen fish with ice particles inside the package (this means the frozen process was broken, which may damage the nutritional properties).
▪ Avoid fried fish. It usually has a high fat content.
▪ Choose white meat (chicken, turkey, rabbit, etc.) over red meat (pork, mutton, veal, etc.).
▪ When buying or eating poultry, choose the leaner white meat (breast) rather than the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs). Buy skinless meat or remove the skin before cooking.
▪ When buying red meat, be sure to trim off the visible fat before cooking (try not to eat red meat more than once a week).
▪ Select meat substitutes such as dried beans, peas, lentils or tofu (soybean curd) and use them as a starter or in salads and soups (they are also an excellent source of protein).
▪ Avoid cold meats. They are high in salt, fat, nitrates, food additives, among other substances.
▪ Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Add them to salads – but remember that they tend to be high in calories, so eat them in moderation.

Grains, cereals & other carbohydrates

▪ Add the following to your diet: quinoa, beans, brown rice & brown pasta, instead of white potatoes, white pasta & white rice.
▪ Sweet potato is a better option than white potato.

Bread & Bakery

▪ Choose whole-grain bread with a high-fibre content, such as those containing whole wheat, oats, whole rye, whole grain corn and buckwheat. Choose bread and other foods that list whole grains as the first item in the ingredient list.
▪ Limit the amount of pastries in your diet, which include doughnuts, pies, cakes and cookies.
▪ Remember that most store-baked pastries are made with egg yolks and saturated fats. Check for store-baked goods that are made with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils, skimmed or reduced-fat milk, and egg whites – or bake your own.
▪ Choose whole-grain breads that contain less than 300Kcal and 4-5gr of fibre per 100gr.

Fats & dressings

▪ Limit the amount of fats and oils used for cooking (maximum of two tablespoons per day)
▪ When you must use oils for cooking or baking, choose those that are more resistant to high temperatures – canola oil, olive oil (not extra virgin) & peanut oil.
▪ As a dressing or in spreads, prefer sesame oil, linseed oil, walnut oil & extra virgin olive oil. Why not try guacamole or hummus as a spread?
▪ Avoid using solid fats, such as margarines/butter. These contain trans/hydrogenated fat (one of the ingredients in the modern diet that shows a powerful association to high cholesterol and premature death from heart attacks).
▪ Watch out for the saturated and/or partially hydrogenated fats hidden in pastries, desserts and other foods. Read the labels and evaluate the nutritional properties.
▪ Buy a nonstick pan or use nonstick vegetable spray when cooking.
▪ For salads, dips or marinades choose reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free salad dressings (if you need to limit your calorie intake). Try dressings made with low-fat Greek yogurts.
The label containing information on Nutritional Content is your guide to making healthy choices. Learning how to read and understand food labels can help you make healthier choices.

|| Tip!

The more colourful and varied your dish, the better is the nutritional balance. Bear in mind that combining all macronutrients (carbohydrates, lipids and proteins), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fibre and bioactive compounds is beneficial to your health.
Remember to also include 7-10 glasses of water per day.

|| When reading the nutrition facts panel consider this:

Keep these low
▪ saturated fats
▪ trans-fat/hydrogenated
▪ nitrates
▪ cholesterol
▪ sodium
Look for more of these
▪ fibre
▪ vitamins A, C, & E
▪ calcium
▪ potassium
▪ magnesium & iron
By Ana Rita Horta
|| [email protected]
Ana Rita Horta is a Dietitian at the Hospital Particular do Algarve