Skip to Content

Shopping For A Healthy Diet


Shopping for healthy foods makes it easier for you to follow a healthy meal plan. You are more likely to have healthy foods available in your home every day. A healthy meal plan is low in unhealthy fats, salt, and added sugar. A healthy meal plan may reduce your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis (brittle bones), and some types of cancer.


Healthy food choices:

The following are some suggestions for making healthy food choices from each food group. Ask your dietitian how many servings you should eat from each food group daily.

  • Grains: Half of the grains you eat each day should be whole grains.

    • Whole grains:

      • ½ cup of cooked brown rice or cooked oatmeal

      • 1 cup (1 ounce) of whole-grain dry cereal

      • 1 slice of 100% whole-wheat bread or rye bread

      • 3 cups of popped popcorn

    • Other grains:

      • ½ cup of cooked white rice or pasta

      • ½ of an English muffin

      • 1 small 6-inch flour or corn tortilla

      • 1 mini bagel

  • Dairy foods: Choose fat free or low-fat dairy foods.

    • 1½ ounces of hard cheese (mozzarella, Swiss, cheddar)

    • 1 cup (8 ounces) of fat free or low-fat milk or yogurt

    • 1 cup of low-fat frozen yogurt or pudding

  • Fruits and vegetables: Half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables.
    Plate Model

    • Fruits: Choose fresh, canned, or dried fruit instead of fruit juice as often as possible.

      • 1 cup of fruit juice

      • 1 cup of sliced, diced, cooked, or canned fruit

      • 1 large peach, orange, or banana

      • ½ cup of dried fruit

    • Vegetables: Eat more dark green, red, and orange vegetables. Dark green vegetables include broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, and collard greens. Examples of orange and red vegetables are carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, oranges, and red peppers.

      • 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables

      • 1 cup of vegetable juice

      • 2 cups of raw leafy greens

  • Meat and other protein foods: Choose lean meats and poultry. Bake, broil, and grill meat instead of frying it. Include a variety of seafood in place of some meat and poultry each week.

    • ½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves) or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (1 ounce)

    • ¼ cup of soy tofu or tempeh (1 ounce)

    • 1 egg

    • ¼ cup of cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils (1 ounce)

    • 1 small chicken breast or 1 small trout (about 3 ounces)

    • 1 salmon steak (4 to 6 ounces)

    • 1 small lean hamburger (2 to 3 ounces)

  • Fats: Limit the amount of shortening, butter, stick margarine, and animal fat that you eat. These are unhealthy fats. Choose the following healthy fats whenever possible:

    • 1 tablespoon of canola, olive, corn, sunflower, or soybean oil

    • 1 tablespoon of soft (tub) margarine

    • 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise

    • 2 tablespoons of salad dressing

    • ½ of an avocado

Before you go shopping:

  • Plan your meals.

    • Plan your shopping around favorite meals and recipes that you will prepare for the week. Switch ingredients in recipes to lower the total fat and calorie content. For example, if a recipe calls for milk, you can add nonfat or 1% milk instead of whole milk. Use egg substitute in a recipe that calls for whole eggs. Make a list of the foods you will need for the meals that you have planned.

    • Plan healthy meals that can be made quickly on days when you are extra busy. Another idea is to plan meals that you can make in large batches and freeze. You can thaw and eat these meals on days when you do not have time to cook. For example, spaghetti can be made in several batches at once and frozen.

  • Look through supermarket ads for sales. You can make affordable healthy choices by choosing foods that are on sale. For example, fruits and vegetables are priced lower when they are in season. Use sale items to plan your meals for the week.

  • Eat before you go shopping. Shopping on an empty stomach may cause you to buy unhealthy foods because you feel hungry.

Tips at the supermarket:

  • Know where to find healthy foods. Go to the food sections that are found along the walls of the store first. Healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, dairy products, meat and fish, are usually placed in these areas. The inner aisles have other healthy foods, such as canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and cereals. However, there are also other less healthy foods in the inner aisles. Some of these foods include packaged foods, snack foods, and desserts. Shopping in the inner aisles last may help you buy fewer of these foods.

  • Read food labels. Use the nutrition information on food labels to help you make healthier food choices when you shop.

    • The serving size is usually listed in cups or pieces and may include a weight (grams, ounces). It also shows the number of servings that are in a package. Compare the amount that you will eat to the serving size listed. If the package contains 2 servings and you eat the whole package, then you will eat twice the amount of calories and nutrients listed.

    • The nutrients listed on the top section of the label are fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Limit these nutrients because eating too much may increase your risk of certain diseases. The total carbohydrates, fiber, and sugars are also listed. The nutrients you should get more include dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Getting enough of these nutrients may help you to reduce your risk of diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

    • The % daily value (DV) listed on the food label next to the nutrients tells you if a food is low or high in these nutrients. A percent DV of 5% or less means that the food is low in that nutrient. A percent DV of 20% or more means that the food is high in that nutrient.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.