Pin Me

Grocery Shopping & Meal Planning on a Diet

written by: Roma Lightsey, RN, BSN • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 5/13/2010

Quick and easy tricks for buying healthier food on a diet.

  • slide 1 of 3

    Staples for the Diet Pantry

    Before heading to the grocery store to shop when you are on a diet, you must have a shopping list. Running to the store without a shopping list is asking for trouble. No matter which diet meal plan you follow, there are some basics that should always be on hand. A well-stocked pantry makes diet meal plans and shopping list creation less of a challenge.

    Staples for any diet meal plan include:

    • Spices - Fresh is best, and many herbs and spices can be grown on a windowsill. Use seasonings to accentuate the food's flavor. Look beyond salt and pepper-think of basil, sage, cumin, anise, and more. Cinnamon adds a sweet touch to desserts without adding sugar, and some studies suggest cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar.

    • Healthy snacks - Plain almonds make a great snack, as they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs. Other good MUFA choices include dark chocolate. A small piece of premium dark chocolate can satisfy a sweet tooth. If nuts and dark chocolate are not your favorites, include a variety of fruits. Strawberries, acai berries, and blueberries are all berries packing a nutritional punch. Cut-up cantaloupe and watermelon before putting them in the refrigerator so they are ready to grab and munch on.

    • Eggs - Eggs are a good source of protein, and boiled eggs are easy to prepare on a work morning. Scramble in a nonstick skillet with a spritz of cooking spray, and you save a lot of calories by not using oil or butter. Choose organic eggs to avoid antibiotics and other chemicals.

    • Dairy - Fat free or lowfat milk should be substituted for cereal and cooking, even if you only like to drink whole milk. You cannot tell a difference in taste, especially when used in cooking. You save a lot of fat and calories with this one substitution. Other dairy products to keep on hand include lowfat cottage cheese and lowfat yogurt. Add a small handful of fresh fruit to your yogurt, and top with a teaspoon of ground flaxseed or granola.

    • High quality whole grains - Buy real oatmeal, the kind you have to cook, instead of oversugared instant. Remember the cinnamon you have on hand? Cinnamon adds a zip of flavor, and may help prevent diabetes. Avoid white bread. Look for cereals and breads with at least two grams of fiber per serving. With cereal, look at the label to see how much sugar is in a serving. Avoid cereal which contains more than five grams of sugar per serving.
  • slide 2 of 3

    Shopping Strategies for any Diet Meal Plan

    Beware of sodium. It causes water retention, which leads to puffiness and contributes to high blood pressure. Most Americans get far too much sodium daily because of our high consumption of processed and boxed foods. Frozen foods and canned goods, such as soup, tend to be high in sodium. Buy low salt or no-salt added canned vegetables, and rinse in a colander before cooking to remove more sodium. Some frozen entrées have 25% or more of your daily sodium requirement, and that is without considering what other foods you eat during the day, or if you have a salt shaker habit. Using your other spices to bring out the flavor in food negates the need to drown it in salt, which actually hides the taste of the food.

    Avoid high-fat mayonnaise and salad dressings. Low-fat salad dressings or oil and vinegar are better choices. Use less dressing; too many people glob two or more servings of dressing on their salad. Drown a healthy salad in fatty dressing, and you may as well be eating a Big Mac. Substitute broth-based soups for cream-based soups.

    When buying meat, look for lower-fat cuts and use meat as an accent instead of serving a giant steak. Bake, grill, or broil, but avoid frying. If you are short on time, most stores carry plain frozen chicken breasts which are precooked and ready to heat. Fresh steamed vegetables on the side and a fruit cup for dessert makes a healthy, quick meal.

    Remember, it takes just as long to buy junk food as it does healthy food. Slowly changing your food habits to include healthier choices will become second nature and is much easier when you have a plan to keep your diet meal plans and shopping list on track.