When it comes to grocery shopping, planning ahead can make your trip a lot shorter and more efficient. If you’re like most people, you probably plan what you need  for a few meals  and buy the same basics.   But how about planning for better health while you’re at it?

A healthy grocery shopping list can help you prioritize nutrition for yourself and your family. It may also help you avoid distractions in the store, such as high-calorie comfort foods, which often contain too much fat, salt, and sugar.

What to Add to Your Grocery List?

When we make poor food choices – opting for unhealthy items that may be lacking vitamins, minerals, protein and other important nutrients – we do little to support overall health. Boosting our immunity is important no matter our life stage, and our immune system relies on proper nutrients to function.

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Here is a grocery list to help you focus on the right nutrients as you go through the aisles:

1. Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Antioxidants

I want to take a moment to talk about the role of antioxidants, and particularly, phytonutrients: natural compounds found in plant foods that support the body’s natural oxidant defense system.

Oxidative stress is something that occurs in the body naturally as a process of everyday metabolism.  Basically, it refers to the production of compounds called oxygen free radicals which have the potential to do damage to cells if their production isn’t squelched by antioxidants.

As long as the body has plenty of antioxidants available, the level of oxidative stress in the body can be kept in check. But if there are inadequate antioxidants available and oxidative stress increases, it can weaken the body’s ability to fight off illness.

Phytonutrients are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, so if it helps, think of “painting your plate” with a rainbow of colors as you shop for fruits and vegetables:

In addition to phytonutrients, vitamins C and A also have antioxidant properties, which makes it more important to stock up on both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C is a crucial player in various aspects of the immune system, particularly immune cell function, supporting the production of antibodies.

Good sources of vitamin C include:

Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and also supports the health of the tissues of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Many people do not realize that cells of the immune system reside in the digestive tract and the importance of keeping those cells healthy.

Foods high in vitamin A include:

There’s a variety of ways you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet, such as adding them to your shake, soup, or sandwich. By having different options and phytonutrient-rich foods, aim to have at least 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

2. Healthy Protein Sources: Animal and Plant-based Options

Protein is critical for many functions of the body, including muscle repair and nutrient transport. And when it comes to immunity, protein also helps the body build antibodies—although ingesting protein doesn’t make the immune system capable of building antibodies for any specific antigen.

While most people think of meat and dairy products when it comes to protein sources,  vegetarians and vegans can also get the right amounts of high-quality protein from plant-based sources.

Animal-based sources of protein include:

Plant-based sources of protein include:

3. Foods Rich in Fiber

Best known for helping with regularity, high-fiber foods are filling and relatively low in calories. Certain fibers can also encourage the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract. These beneficial bacteria support the immune system because they can crowd out potentially harmful bacteria that might enter the digestive tract.

You can get more fiber by including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Use fruits and veggies as snacks, add them to smoothies, sandwiches, salads, soups, and stews, and replace refined grains with whole grains.

Here are a few specific high-fiber foods to add to your grocery list:

4. Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Probiotics (the good bacteria) support the health of the digestive system, which, as previously mentioned, plays a role in supporting immune function.

Fermented foods are great options that provide beneficial probiotics to the digestive system. Some fermented foods, like tempeh or Greek yogurt, are also excellent sources of plant-based protein and have a relatively long shelf life.

Here are some probiotic-rich foods to add to your shopping list:

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Finally, omega-3 fatty acids are healthy and essential fatty acids that can be found in foods such as fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the function of immune cells, although research in this area is still developing.

Here are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids:

Additional Tips for the Healthy Shopper

Grocery shopping can sometimes be stressful if you don’t plan ahead. A good list will remind you to invest in nutrient-dense foods, so you can take care of yourself and your body.

Here are a few more tips before your next grocery run:

  1. Review simple, healthy recipes ahead of time and add the ingredients to your list. Crafting a nutritious menu in advance will save you time.
  2. Plain frozen fruits and veggies pack the same nutritional punch as their fresh counterparts, so stock up on them when you find them.
  3. Dry goods like oatmeal, lentils, whole-grain pastas, and cereals can be great sources of fiber, iron, and magnesium. Some cereals are also fortified with Vitamin D. Store them where it is cool and dry.
  4. Most canned goods are years away from their expiration dates, which means they can safely be stored in your pantry. Make sure to choose low sodium options and stock up on beans, broth, tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken, and nuts. You can also buy canned veggies such as tomatoes (sauce, diced or paste), corn, pumpkin, and chili peppers.
  5. Eggs can easily stay fresh and safe for 3-5 weeks after you buy them — which is likely to be long after the date stamp on the carton. Even ground beef, which is highly perishable, is safe to eat for a day or two after you buy it – even if the “sell by” date has passed.
Susan Bowerman

Susan BowermanM.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman is the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the Dietetic Advisory Board (DAB). As a registered dietitian, she educates distributors about our global nutrition philosophy and is responsible for developing nutrition education and training materials. Bowerman earned a B.S. in Biology with distinction from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and holds two board certifications as a specialist in Sports Dietetics and in Obesity and Weight Management. When she is not busy teaching and writing, Susan enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and gardening. Her favorite Herbalife products include Simply Probiotic and Herbalife Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix Banana Caramel.