The Healthy Food List & Food Shopping

A healthy food list is essential to creating a quality healthy meal plan. It is also a good tool for stocking your pantry and cabinets with quality wholesome foods. Most importantly, it is a good tool to keep your costs down and to stay focused on purchasing the items you actually need once you are at the supermarket.

When at the food shopping destination of your choice, there are a few things to look for. The first thing to remember when shopping for food is to read the ingredients on the back, not the marketing on the front . Many foods make claims to be "All Natural", "Organic", "Light", and "Reduced Fat". Those terms can mean so many things, which is why it is important to look at the nutrition label for the actual ingredients. Things to look for include hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrups, and other added sugars. These are some of the ingredients to avoid or keep to a minimum. They can be found in anything from breakfast cereals to salad dressings, since they are used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of these products.

What should a healthy foods list consist of? Some or all of the following:


Produce

Fruits and vegetables make up an essential part of the healthy food list. There may be debates about which fruits and vegetables are better for you. However you can not go wrong if these types of food are a predominant part of your daily eating habits. No matter which ones you choose. For convenience it can even be useful to purchase canned vegetables and fruits. In the case of canned vegetables, make sure they are not treated with lots of chemical and look at the sodium content. A good idea when using canned vegetables is to rinse them off once removing them from their container. These same rules apply for frozen vegetables, in order to reduce the amount of additives actually being consumed. When looking at canned and frozen fruits, it is good to find the ones that are in an unsweetened fruit juice. This is a better option as opposed to the many varieties processed in sugars and syrup.

Meats/Seafood

shrimp, seafood, shellfish, prawns

Various types of seafood, lean cuts of beef, lean cuts of pork, and poultry are ideal choices to add to your healthy food list. When shopping for these items, the goal is to get the items with higher protein but lower saturated fat. This can be found in Wild-caught Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp, Chicken/Turkey Breasts, Chicken/Turkey Cutlets, Canadian Bacon, Flank Steak, and Pork Loins.

Dairy

Quality dairy products can provide much needed calcium as well as protein. They are definitely something that should be included on your healthy food list. Many dairy foods contain high amounts of saturated fats, so that is something to be aware of. Some of the suggested items to purchase include Low-fat Milk, Eggs, Low-fat Plain Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, and Feta Cheese. It is good to limit or avoid cheeses that are labeled reduced fat or the ones that are processed and shredded. Many of these have additives that take away from the true health benefits that cheese can provide. Yogurt is another popular dairy food that can be a nutritional pitfall due to the added sugar content. It is beneficial to try to find a yogurt with more fruits listed in the ingredients and less sugar shown on the nutritional label.

Breads/Grains

Bread is a constant part of our daily eating habits. Whether we are making a sandwich at home, or nibbling on the basket of bread while waiting for the main course at a restaurant. Bread is all around us. Despite the negative publicity it gets at times, there is room for bread to be incorporated on a healthy food list. It is important to know that not all bread is created equally. When shopping for bread, look for the ones labeled 100% Whole Grain, 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat, Stone Ground Whole Grain, or made from Sprouted Grains. Breads just labeled as wheat or multi-grain look brown but are not nearly as loaded with fiber and protein as true "whole grain" breads.

When it comes to grains the following should make the list: Barley, Brown Rice, Bulgur Wheat, Couscous, Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, Steel-Cut (Irish) Oatmeal, Quinoa, and Wild Rice. These can be used in side dishes with dinner, eaten as breakfast, or used to top a salad for lunch. Most of them (excluding the oatmeal) can be used as a healthy replacement in a standard rice dish. Also note that more grocery stores are stocking flour made from these whole grains. These whole grain flours are a healthier alternative to the standard refined all-purpose flour. Do not hesitate to add these to your healthy food list.

Beans

Many times when we refer to beans we are actually referring to Legumes, which include beans and more. It is hard to go wrong when you choose which beans/legumes to include in your healthy food list. They are another great source of fiber and come in many varieties. Black beans, Chickpeas (garbanzos), Green Peas, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Pinto Beans, and Soy Beans are a few of the choices. Many of these, soybeans in particular, are also a quality source of protein. Buying them fresh or dried is the ideal way to buy beans. Canned beans can be used too, since they are a convenient way to incorporate legumes in our meals on a daily basis. When using these canned beans it is recommended that they are rinsed thoroughly once they are drained and removed from the can. This removes a lot of the excess salt that is used when they are packed in the can.

Oils/Nuts

There are so many oils to choose from at the grocery store. Which one do you include on your healthy food list? For starters, you want to look at the oils that are labeled "Extra Virgin", "Cold Pressed", or "Unrefined". The less processed an oil is, the better it will be for you. Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil, Walnut Oil are all good examples of what should be used in our kitchen. Whether you are cooking with it, using it as a marinade, or whipping up your own salad dressing. These are all oils that would be considered healthy ingredients.

When selecting nuts, it is best to purchase the ones in or near the produce section vs. the ones in the snack aisle. The canned nuts found in the snack aisle are usually processed with hydrogenated oils (trans fats), which add unhealthy oils to otherwise healthy nuts. Raw or roasted nuts such as Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds, and Sunflower Seeds are all quality additions to your healthy food list.

Condiments

mustard, green cap, brown mustard, yellow mustard, condiment

Condiments are often used to enhance the flavors of the food we eat. Changing to a healthy eating lifestyle does not mean you need to avoid condiments altogether. There are certain ones that have additives and sugars that should be avoided. That still leaves plenty to choose from. In addition to enhancing flavors, condiments can also speed up the body's metabolism as well as improve the digestion process. Horseradish, Hummus, Mustard, Salsa, Soy Sauce, Vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, red wine, rice wine) are all items that can be added to your healthy food list.