Whether you are a coupon clipper or a supermarket browser, a healthy diet starts with your shopping cart. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that most adults fall short on crucial food groups, and 35 percent of calories in the American diet come from added sugar and fats. When you make your list for your next trip to the market, load up your cart with these healthy foods.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The USDA recommends women eat 1 1/2 cups of fruits and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day. Fill up your cart with fresh, dried or frozen varieties and 100-percent juices. Canned fruits and vegetables can be high in sugar or sodium, so choose low-sodium vegetables and fruits canned in water, not syrup. Dark-green vegetables provide vitamin K and fiber, so buy baby spinach for salads and frozen broccoli for soups and side dishes. Red and orange fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A and C, so add a bag of baby carrots, frozen butternut squash, orange juice and canned tomatoes to your list. Blue or purple berries and vegetables provide anti-aging anthocyanins, so grab an eggplant for a vegetarian chili or a bag of frozen blueberries to top your morning oatmeal. White vegetables may reduce heart disease risk, so have onions and garlic on hand to add flavor to your meals.
Whole grains offer more nutrition for your dollar than refined grains. Refined grains, such as unbleached flour, white rice and white bread, lose nutrients during processing, but unprocessed whole grains are rich sources of vitamin E, heart-healthy fats and fiber. The USDA recommends women eat 3 ounce equivalents of whole grains each day; examples of an ounce equivalent include one slice of bread, one packet of instant oatmeal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice. Stock up your cart with whole wheat flour, brown rice, oatmeal, oat cereal and 100-percent whole grain breads. For variety, buy whole-grain couscous, barley and bulgur to substitute for white rice in recipes.
Protein builds your body's tissues and creates hormones. Some protein foods are high in fat, so keep an eye out for lean proteins. Choose lean cuts of meat, such as rounds or loins, and select ground meats that are at least 85-percent fat free. Fish provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so work in at least two servings of fish per week. Fresh or frozen fish plus canned salmon and tuna are good options. Vegetable proteins, such as beans, nuts and seeds, are excellent sources of fiber, which maintains digestive health. Buy a can of unsalted nuts for a quick protein boost to your morning cereal. Canned beans are an easy addition to soups and salads, but be careful of the sodium content. Rinsing and draining canned beans before use reduces the sodium content by approximately 40 percent.
Dairy is high in calcium, which protects against bone loss, or osteoporosis. The USDA recommends women consume 3 cups of dairy per day. Dairy products can be high in saturated fat, so choose low-fat versions. Skim or 1-percent milk, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat yogurt are all good options. For extra protein, try Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has a higher protein content due to whey protein, which is removed from regular yogurt. If you do not eat dairy, add calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk to your shopping list. Other natural sources of calcium include broccoli, bok choy, canned salmon with bones and almonds.
- USDA: How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- USDA: How Much Fruit is Needed a Day?
- USDA: Tips to Help You Make Wise Choices from the Protein Foods Group
- USDA: How Much Food from the Protein Foods Group Is Needed Daily?
- Mayo Clinic: New Dietary Guidelines: How to Make Smart Choices
- CDC: Calcium and Bone Health
- North Dakota State University: What Color is Your Food?
- USDA: How Many Grain Foods Are Needed Daily?
- USDA: How Much Food from the Dairy Group Is Needed Daily?
- USDA: What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent of Grains?
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.