The parking lot is full, there are no small carts left, and the checkout lines are long-yes I am describing a typical trip to the grocery store. The only highlights for me are seeing the colorful produce and looking for new products. Healthy eating and glycemic control start with what’s in your cart.

Plan ahead and have a list. The first step for a good grocery trip is to have a list. This ensures that you have healthy foods at home. Hopefully this means you also made a meal plan too. A list helps to save you time and money by reducing the number of trips to the grocery store. Lists can be on paper, your phone, or an app. Some grocery stores have their own app that you can use to make a list.

Shop the outside first. The idea behind this is that perimeter of the grocery store is usually healthy, less processed foods. Think fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, and meats/seafood/poultry. It’s true that the bakery and frozen desserts may also lurk on the outside but generally there are more whole food choices. It’s always a good goal to shop for whole food. Avoiding some of the center aisles reduces temptation, but there are some foods in the center aisles that are healthy and should be included in your diet. Items such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, oils, dried fruit, dried or canned beans, canned fish, whole grains (oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, barley, quinoa), and herbs and spices. These foods may be staples that you have at home so shop strategically and avoid walking up and down each aisle. You also have and less time to spend in those aisles if your refrigerated dairy and produce is sitting in your cart.

Look for new foods. We often end up with the same items in our cart. There are probably some vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes you haven’t tried before. Try something different like raw jicama dipped in hummus with kiwi. Think about trying one new food per week. A variety of whole foods helps to increase nutrient intake without the added sugar, fat, or sodium.

Fill half your cart with produce. Think about your cart like your plate. A good plate goal is ½ non-starchy vegetables. So if you want to eat more vegetables, you need to purchase more vegetables. Look for a variety of color to increase phytonutrients which help to prevent disease and keep your body functioning at its peak. To save time prepping vegetables at home, purchase fresh or frozen chopped, riced, or spiralized vegetables. Think zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. Frozen cauliflower rice is one of my favorites for a quick vegetable addition. Don’t ignore fruits just because they raise glucose. Fruits should be included as a daily choice for people with diabetes.

Try different stores or local farmers market. Different stores have different choices. If you only shop at one store, it might be good to check out some other stores. Wholesale club stores also have some healthy choices. Farmers markets will have seasonal local produce. This is a great choice because less time from farm to table means more nutrients.

Before you bravely leave for the grocery store, have a small snack so you aren’t shopping hungry. This helps to avoid those impulse buys. Remember what’s in your cart will likely end up in your stomach. Make it healthy!


by Christine McKinney, RD LDN CDE


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