Grocery Store Tricks for Healthier Foods!

Fill Your Cart Like Your Plate

The adventure of grocery shopping (we know you can relate): filling the cart with fresh veggies, ripe fruit, nutritious goodies like hummus, almonds, and quinoa. Piling in 20 cups of Chobani (yes, 20), strolling through the aromatic baked goods, leisurely heading for the checkout.

Now, let’s talk realities of grocery shopping. Time’s running out, kids are cranky, the store’s out of Chobani (no, never!), and you’re too hungry to think. Pile in whatever you can grab, and beeline out of there.

Get home, and you realize the common affiliation we like to call aisle-stress-itis prevented you from bringing home healthy, nutritious choices. But wait! There’s a cure! And it is listed simply below. Read RD Jen’s tips for finding healthier foods in the grocery store (amidst crowds and hunger pains) and you’ll never again leave without a healthy load.

Fill Your Cart Like Your Plate

Easy tricks to find healthier foods in the grocery store!

Do any of these sound like you or someone you know?

– You are looking for ways to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

– You are looking for quick and healthy meal ideas to feed you and your spouse.

– You were just recently diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart disease, celiac disease or diabetes.

– You want to learn how to better take care of yourself; you want more energy.

As a registered dietitian working in a supermarket, something I love to do is teach customers how to shop for health in practical ways.  After all, our food choices begin in the aisles and it’s the perfect place to learn about health.  My top five favorites?

1. Spinach – build your salad with spinach for healthy babies, healthy hearts and healthy eyes.

2. Salmon – serve salmon twice a week to decrease inflammation in your body and for a healthy brain.

3. Beans – eating these high-fiber morsels encourages a healthy digestive system.

4. Greek yogurt – packing twice the protein of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt can be part of any meal of the day.  Be sure to check for real Greek yogurt by looking for 14 grams protein per serving.

5. Blueberries – these little berries are brain food.  Eat them daily by adding them to your morning parfait, throwing them into the spinach salad or whirling them into a smoothie.

Commit these phrases to memory every time you shop:

Fill your cart like your plate.  You have heard of MyPlate; now think MyCart, where your shopping cart reflects what’s on MyPlate.

To build a healthy and balanced meal, fill your cart like you would your plate, half of it being fruits and vegetables, a quarter each of whole grain and lean protein and all-important dairy to round out each meal.  This is a great idea to teach the kids.

Include the entire store. It’s not enough to shop the perimeter anymore.  You miss out on valuable nutrients coming from whole grains and healthy fats.  Whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread and cereal, whole grain tortillas – all are found in the center aisles.  And don’t forget heart- and brain-healthy fats like olive or canola oil, peanut butter, canned salmon and nuts.  They can be an essential way to get key nutrients like monounsaturated fats (the kind that is good for you) and omega-3s (for your heart and brain).

Buy real food. Look for wholesome food that is nutrient-rich.  Nutrient-rich means the food is filled with nutrients considering the calories it provides.  A wholesome area I constantly lead my customers to is the dairy aisle.  Here you can find milk, yogurt and cheese, all of which are necessary to provide nine essential nutrients your body needs.

Jen Haugen, RD, LD is a Down-To-Earth Dietitian giving practical ways for families to live healthier lives through the foods they grow, shop for, cook and eat together.  You can follow her blog at

Our finance folks advise us not to be so generous, but we can’t help ourselves! Contributors here may (read: definitely) have received some of our delicious yogurt.