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Nutrition Library: Healthy Eating

Guide To Grocery Shopping: Selecting Healthy Items

Check Products for:

  • Serving size
  • Number of servings
  • Calories
  • Total fat in grams
  • Saturated fat in grams
  • Cholesterol in milligrams
  • Sodium in milligrams

Food labels give information about the different nutrients in one serving. Use it to help you keep track of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium in different foods.

The "% Daily Value" shows you how much of the recommended amounts the food provides in one serving, if you eat 2,000 calories a day. Your daily amounts may be higher or lower.

We live in a fast-moving world. To reduce the time you spend in the kitchen you can improve your organization by using a shopping list and keeping a well-stocked kitchen. Shop for quick low-fat food items, and fill your kitchen cupboards with a supply of low-calorie basics. Read labels as you shop. Pay attention to the serving size and the servings per container. All labels list total calories in a serving size of the product. Compare the total calories in similar products and opt for the one lowest in calories.

A low-calorie shopping list

Make a shopping list. Include the items you need for your menus and low-calorie basics to restock your kitchen.

Dairy Case

  • Low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk
  • Low-fat or reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • Fat-free cottage cheese
  • Low-fat cheeses
  • Low-fat or nonfat yogurt
  • Light or diet margarine (tub, squeeze or spray)
  • Reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream
  • Fat-free cream cheese
  • Eggs/Egg substitutes

Breads, Muffins, Rolls

  • Bread, bagels, pita bread
  • English muffins
  • Yeast breads (whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, multi-grain, raisin)
  • Corn tortillas (not fried)
  • Low-fat flour tortillas
  • Fat-free biscuit mix
  • Rice crackers
  • Challah

Cereals, Crackers, Rice, Noodles, and Pasta

  • Plain cereal, dry or cooked
  • Saltines, soda crackers (low sodium or unsalted tops)
  • Graham crackers
  • Other low-fat crackers
  • Rice (brown, white, etc.)
  • Pasta (noodles, spaghetti)
  • Bulgur, couscous, kasha
  • Potato mixes (made without fat)
  • Rice mixes (made without fat)
  • Wheat mixes
  • Tabouli grain salad
  • Hominy
  • Polenta
  • Polvillo
  • Hominy grits
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Aramanth
  • Oatmeal

    Meat Case

    • White meat chicken and turkey (skin- off )
    • Fish (not battered)
    • Beef, round or sirloin
    • Extra lean ground beef such as ground round
    • Pork tenderloin
    • 95% fat-free lunch meats or low-fat deli meats
    • Meat equivalents:
    • Tofu (or bean curd)
    • Beans (see bean list)

    Fruit (Fresh, Canned, and Frozen)

    Fresh fruit:
    • Apples
    • Bananas
    • Peaches
    • Oranges
    • Pears
    • Grapes
    • Grapefruit
    • Apricot
    • Dried Fruits
    • Cherries
    • Plums
    • Melons
    • Lemons
    • Limes
    • Plantains
    • Mango
    • Papaya

    Canned fruit (in juice or water):

    • Canned pineapple
    • Applesauce
    • Other canned fruits (mixed or plain)

    Frozen fruits (without added sugar):

    • Frozen blueberries
    • Frozen raspberries
    • Frozen 100% fruit juice

    Vegetables (Fresh, Canned, Frozen)

    Fresh vegetables:

    • Broccoli
    • Peas
    • Corn
    • Cauliflower
    • Squash
    • Green Beans
    • Green Leafy Vegetables
    • Spinach
    • Lettuce
    • Cabbage
    • Artichokes
    • Cucumber
    • Asparagus
    • Mushrooms
    • Carrots or celery
    • Onions
    • Potatoes
    • Tomatoes
    • Green peppers

    Canned vegetables: (low sodium or no salt added)

    • Canned tomatoes
    • Tomato sauce or pasta
    • Other canned vegetables
    • Canned vegetable soup, reduced sodium

    Frozen vegetables: (without added fats)

    • Frozen broccoli
    • Frozen spinach
    • Frozen mixed medley, etc.
    • Frozen yucca

    Beans and legumes (if canned, no salt added)

    • Lentils
    • Black beans
    • Red beans (kidney beans)
    • Navy beans
    • Black beans
    • Pinto beans
    • Black-eyed peas
    • Fava beans
    • Mung beans
    • Italian white beans
    • Great white northern beans
    • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
    • Dried beans, peas, and lentils (without flavoring packets)
    • Canned bean soup

    Baking items

    • Flour
    • Sugar
    • Imitation butter (flakes or buds)
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • Canned evaporated milk?fat free (skim) or reduced-fat (2%)
    • Nonfat dry milk powder
    • Cocoa powder, unsweetened
    • Baking powder
    • Baking soda
    • Cornstarch
    • Unflavored gelatin
    • Gelatin, any flavor (reduced calorie)
    • Pudding mixes (reduced calorie)
    • Angel food cake mix
    • Other low-fat mixes

    Frozen foods

    • Frozen fish fillets unbreaded
    • Egg substitute
    • Frozen 100 percent fruit juices (no sugar added)
    • Frozen fruits (no sugar added)
    • Frozen vegetables (plain)

    Condiments, sauces, seasonings, and spreads

    • Low-fat or nonfat salad dressings
    • Mustard (Dijon, etc.)
    • Catsup
    • Barbecue sauce
    • Other low-fat sauces
    • Jam, jelly, or honey
    • Spices
    • Flavored vinegars
    • Hoisin sauce, plum sauce
    • Salsa or picante sauce
    • Canned green chilies
    • Soy sauce (low sodium)
    • Bouillon cubes/granules (low sodium)


    • No-calorie drink mixes
    • Reduced-calorie juices
    • Unsweetened iced tea
    • Carbonated water
    • Water

    (Reprinted with permission from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute)

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