What Should I Buy at the Store for Weight Loss?

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Healthful, sustainable weight loss isn’t about tedious calorie counting or excessive food limitations; it’s about nourishment. Studies have shown that nutritious eating patterns are tied to long-term weight loss maintenance.

To help with weight management, prioritize foods like fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins each week on your weight loss grocery list. Read on for more items to keep on hand and suggestions for how to use these foods to build balanced meals, snacks, and treats.

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Planning before going grocery shopping can be helpful in a few ways. It can make figuring out what you want to eat throughout the week less stressful. You can also ensure that everyone eating the meals has options that meet their dietary needs or preferences.

You’ll also have the opportunity to save money when you plan ahead. You’ll have more time to look at any foods on sale or find coupons for foods you want to purchase. Plus, buying based on what you already have means you don’t have to buy extra ingredients or foods, keeping more money in your pocket.

Before you get to the store or log on to do your online food shopping, here are a few tips to help you succeed in picking up your groceries.

Include a Variety of Ingredients

Decide how to make your grocery list. When putting future grocery lists together, think through items you’ll need to make complete meals and healthy snacks. A balanced meal can contain five components:

  1. Veggies: Your options can include vegetables that are fresh or frozen.
  2. Lean protein: Don’t forget about plant-based options, from lentils to frozen veggie burgers. Eggs, as well as canned salmon and tuna, are quick and easy animal-based proteins.
  3. Good-for-you” fat: Fats that can be beneficial include extra virgin olive oil, olive tapenade, olive oil-based pesto, avocado, nuts and nut butter, and tahini.
  4. Whole food carbs: Whole food carbs include fresh or frozen fruit; starchy veggies like potatoes; and whole grains, including oats, brown rice, and quinoa. Pulses—the umbrella term for beans, lentils, and chickpeas—provide both protein and fiber-rich carbs.
  5. Natural seasonings: Seasonings can include fresh or dried herbs and spices, as well as nutritious condiments, such as balsamic vinegar and stone-ground mustard.

It’s also okay to include dairy products in some of your meals. Opt for low-fat, fat-free, lactose-free, or fortified soy milk, yogurts, and cheeses.

Make Your List Based on Meals

Build your grocery list around the items you need for each meal based on sections within the store. This method can help you return from your trip with everything you need for meal preparation. Then it’s just a matter of making the time to cook.

Pre-prepping can also help, so all you’ll need to do is plate and reheat your meal components. One study completed in a worksite weight management program found that higher average meal planning frequency was associated with greater weight loss.

Pick the Right Time to Shop

It matters when you shop. You’ve probably heard you shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach. Being hungry makes you more vulnerable to impulse purchases you may bypass when full.

A growling tummy may also cause you to feel unfocused and less able to think strategically about your needs. Plan a trip shortly after a meal when you won’t feel rushed, and bring your list.

Food quality, variety, and balance are key to exposing your body to a broad spectrum of nutrients and health-protective compounds. Here are some food groups and types to stock up on.

Weight Loss Grocery List Food Categories
 Fruits Vegetables Minimally Processed Foods Frozen   Refrigerated Shelf-Stable
Apples Bell peppers Bagged or pre-cut fruits and vegetables Broccoli and cauliflower Eggs or plant-based egg substitutes  Beans, peas, and lentils
Avocado  Cucumbers Peeled fruit or veggies Edamame Greek yogurt  Canned fish
Bananas Leafy greens Roasted or shelled nuts or seeds Green beans Hummus Flavorings like olive oil or herbs and spices
Citrus fruits Mushrooms Mixed fruit Plant milk Grains
Dates Onions Regular or sweet potatoes Vegan pesto Pastes, spreads, and toppings
Grapes Potatoes Snack ingredients such as dark chocolate
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Zucchini
This table includes some of the many options you can choose from to help build your next shopping list.

Produce

Researchers found an increased intake of fruits and vegetables can counteract a higher body mass index (BMI) and body weight associated with genetics.

Produce should compose most of what’s in your cart for each day’s meals and snacks. Load up on the following:

Minimally Processed Foods

Sometimes, produce can be considered processed food. For example, foods become processed when cooked, frozen, or packaged. Minimally processed foods are prepared for convenient use, such as:

  • Bagged or pre-cut vegetables
  • Peeled fruit
  • Roasted nuts and seeds

If you plan to use minimally processed foods, check the label to ensure they have lower or no added sugar or sodium.

Frozen Foods

For some smart produce shortcuts, check out the frozen aisle. You can find:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Edamame
  • Green beans
  • Mixed fruit
  • Regular or sweet potatoes

Refrigerated Foods

The refrigerated section houses a few key food groups that can help support long-term weight loss maintenance, including:

  • Eggs or plant-based egg substitutes
  • Greek yogurt (plant-based or dairy)
  • Hummus
  • Plant milk
  • Vegan pesto

Shelf-Stable Foods

Shelf-stable foods can also be beneficial for your health. For example, one food group in these aisles is whole grains, which can increase your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and support weight loss. One study showed substituting refined grains with whole grains increased resting metabolic rate, a measure of calorie burning.

Some of the shelf-stable items that you should consider adding to your grocery list include:

  • Beans, peas, and lentils: Bagged lentils, canned black beans, canned chickpeas
  • Canned fish: Canned tuna and canned wild salmon
  • Flavorings: Extra virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices
  • Grains: Brown rice, old-fashioned rolled oats, and quinoa
  • Pastes, spreads, and toppings: Almond butter, maple syrup, olive tapenade, and tahini
  • Snack ingredients: Dark chocolate, plant protein powder, and nuts

Mix and match these foods from your grocery list to create nutrient-rich meals and snacks to help promote weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Here are some ideas that use the complete shopping list above.

Note: As you select the ingredients for these meals, snacks, and treats, remember that the type of fat matters. Fats that are good for you are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, usually liquid (e.g., oils).

To optimize your fat intake, consider cooking with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, nibbling on nuts or seeds instead of cheese, and opting for plant-based dips like guacamole and tahini over ranch.

Breakfast

Add one of these meal ideas to your breakfast rotation:

  • Breakfast parfait with yogurt, granola, and berries
  • Scramble made with egg, plant-based egg substitute, or chickpeas with veggies, herbs, avocado, and a side of citrus fruit
  • Smoothie made with leafy greens, banana, frozen berries, plant protein powder, almond butter, and plant milk
  • Zoats (zucchini oats) made with zucchini, old-fashioned rolled oats, maple syrup, cinnamon, chopped apple, and nuts

Lunch

Lunchtime can be a great opportunity to get your fill of veggies with some of the following options:

  • Bowl made with greens, cucumber, tomato, onion, lentils, quinoa, and seasoned tahini
  • Plant-based burgers made with beans, rice, grains, or tofu
  • Salad made with leafy greens, chickpeas, canned salmon, and vegan pesto
  • Salad made with leafy greens tossed with olive tapenade and topped with canned tuna, green beans, and cubed potatoes
  • Veggie whole-grain sandwich or wrap with avocado, hummus, onions, peppers, and tomatoes

Snacks

You can be versatile with your snacks too. Some options to try include:

  • Dried seaweed
  • Fresh vegetable spring rolls
  • Sliced bell pepper and cucumber with hummus
  • Sliced apple with almond butter
  • Whole-grain crackers and cheese
  • Yogurt with grapes and nuts

Dinner

Do a different take on dinner and allow sides like veggies and grains to take the spotlight. Here are a few ideas:

  • Burritos or tacos with beans, lentils, cheese, and veggies of your choice
  • Extra virgin olive oil sautéed broccoli and cauliflower, lentils, and oven-roasted sweet potato
  • Extra virgin olive oil-sautéed green beans with oven-roasted herbed chickpeas and potatoes
  • Southwest platter made with sautéed bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, and avocado

Treats

When you want something sweet, consider one of these treats:

  • Almond, cashew, coconut, or soy milk-based ice creams
  • Dark chocolate squares with fresh fruit
  • Frozen banana dipped in melted dark chocolate with chopped nuts
  • Sautéed frozen berries topped with a crumble made from almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and rolled oats

Successful long-term weight loss involves developing healthy habits you can stick with. Meal planning and shopping are lifestyle changes that require a commitment, but the rewards are well worth the time and energy. Use this article’s lists and meal ideas to get started, then branch out based on your personal preferences and creativity.

Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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