Share on Pinterest

We can all agree: A trip to the grocery store can be an exercise in serious wastefulness if you don’t go in with a solid list.

Sticking to mostly whole, nutrient-dense foods and limiting processed foods as much as possible is the best approach for optimal health, says Jillian Kubala, a registered dietitian and Healthline contributor.

She’s created the ultimate grocery list. Ready?

Vegetables

  • spinach
  • arugula
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • bell peppers
  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • asparagus
  • cabbage
  • cucumbers
  • celery
  • carrots
  • onions
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs like basil and parsley
  • potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • beets
  • butternut squash

Fruits

  • avocados (Make sure to choose avocados at different stages of ripeness.)
  • fresh blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries (You can buy them frozen to save money.)
  • apples
  • oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
  • pomegranate
  • grapes (green or red)
  • bananas
  • pineapple
  • cherries
  • mango, papaya, and star fruit

Dairy products, nondairy products, eggs, and fermented foods

  • eggs (preferably pasture-raised)
  • pastured butter
  • grass-fed full fat or 2% yogurt or coconut yogurt
  • dairy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk (Choose unsweetened nondairy milks that contain limited ingredients.)
  • full fat cheeses such as goat cheese, cheddar, and feta
  • sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir

Meat, fish, and vegetarian proteins

  • whole chicken or skin-on chicken breasts (Use the carcass to make soup!)
  • canned wild-caught salmon (Tip: Almost all canned salmon is wild-caught!)
  • fresh fish fillets such as flounder or cod
  • shellfish such as shrimp or crab
  • ground turkey or grass-fed beef or pork
  • vegetarian protein sources such as extra-firm tofu

Legumes and grain products

  • canned beans such as garbanzo beans, black beans, or kidney beans
  • canned or dried lentils
  • grains such as quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, teff, farro, buckwheat, barley, and millet (You can find these in individual packages or in the bulk food section of some grocery stores.)
  • rolled or steel-cut oats (Stay away from sugary instant oatmeal — instead choose plain rolled or steel-cut oats and add your own toppings.)
  • corn tortillas made with minimal ingredients

Freezer staples

Veggies and fruits

  • frozen greens like spinach and kale
  • frozen chopped veggies like broccoli and cauliflower
  • edamame
  • frozen fruits like berries, cherries, cubed mango, and pomegranate seeds

Bread and flour

  • Ezekiel bread
  • almond flour
  • coconut flour
  • wheat germ

Proteins

  • frozen skin-on chicken breast
  • frozen ground turkey
  • frozen wild-caught fish and shellfish

Pantry staples

Fats and oils

The following are healthy, minimally processed fats that promote health in various ways:

  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • ghee or grass-fed butter
  • coconut oil
  • tahini
  • unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut butter

Nuts and nut butters

  • almonds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • natural peanut butter (The only ingredients should be peanuts and salt.)
  • almond butter
  • sunflower seeds
  • chia seeds
  • walnuts
  • pistachios
  • hemp seeds (These tiny seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They make an excellent addition to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal.)
  • ground flaxseeds

Condiments

  • apple cider vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • honey
  • hot sauce
  • pure maple syrup
  • tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
  • nutritional yeast
  • salsa
  • mustard
  • vanilla extract
  • salt and pepper

Spices

  • turmeric
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • sage
  • red pepper flakes
  • garlic powder
  • nutmeg
  • saffron
  • paprika
  • curry powder
  • chili powder

Canned goods

  • canned full fat coconut milk
  • sardines
  • crushed tomatoes
  • pumpkin purée
  • no-sugar-added marinara sauce

Miscellaneous

  • chicken broth
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • cacao and cacao nibs
  • sun-dried tomatoes

Beverages

  • green tea bags
  • herbal teas such as peppermint, hibiscus, and ginger
  • sparkling water
  • coffee

Snack foods

  • dark chocolate
  • unsweetened dried fruits like raisins, figs, mango, or apple rings
  • grass-fed, nitrite- and sugar-free meat or turkey sticks or jerky
  • pickles
  • olives

The grocery list above contains whole foods, but that doesn’t mean you have to shop at the pricey store by that name. It just means foods that are sold almost exactly as they came from the plant or animal.

You may notice that this list includes high fat foods such as skin-on chicken, avocados,Wang L, et al. (2015). Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclasses in overweight and obese adults: A randomized, controlled trial. DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.114.001355 nut butters,Machado de Souza RG, et al. (2017). Nuts and human health outcomes: A systematic review. DOI: 10.3390/nu9121311 and full fat yogurt rather than low fat products.

According to Kubala, these nutritious foods with their natural fats may deliver impressive health benefits like improving heart healthLordan R, et al. (2018). Dairy fats and cardiovascular disease: Do we really need to be concerned? DOI: 10.3390/foods7030029 (yes, you read that right), reducing blood sugar,Wang L-L. (2018). The effect of low-carbohydrate diet on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. DOI: 10.3390/nu10060661 and even improving brain function over time.O’Brien J, et al. (2014). Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105147/

Whenever possible, choose pasture-raised, organic eggs, meat, and poultry as well as wild-caught fish.

Pasture-raised eggs, for example, have higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E than eggs from conventionally raised hens.

Pastured dairy products also have higher levels of omega-3 fats and antioxidants, including beta carotene and lutein, compared to dairy from cattle fed conventional grain-based diets.Karsten HD, et al. (2010). Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/41808/PDF

Also, spend the extra cash on organic produce when you can, especially for berries, grapes, apples, and greens — a 2019 analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that these fruits and veggies have the most pesticide residues.EWG’s 2019 shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. (2019). https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

Start in the produce aisle and work your way around the perimeter of the grocery store before heading to the inner aisles.

This can help ensure that you fill your cart with a nice array of brightly colored vegetables and fruits (instead of brightly colored boxes, bags, and bottles).

Finally, know which fruits and vegetables are in season and opt for those first. They taste better and may be fresher. Download an app like the Seasonal Food Guide so you can figure out what’s in season in your area.

Better yet, whenever possible, visit local farms to shop for in-season produce. Your body (all of it — your organs, bones, blood sugar, and brain) will thank you.