What is inside a healthy family’s shopping trolley?

a grocery shopping cart full of vegetables, fruits and milk

Good nutrition starts with making healthy choices at the grocery store but doing the weekly shop can feel like a minefield, especially with kids in tow. Endless options, supermarket specials and so‐called healthy foods can make it hard to safely navigate through the supermarket aisles, so here’s a guide to what a healthy shopping trolley should contain:

  1. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables – Visit the produce section first and stock up on a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables. Aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, perhaps asking your kids to help select them. Fresh fruit and vegies should make up the bulk of your trolley, unless you’ve already visited your local farmer’s market or fruit store.
  2. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs – Lean cuts of meat, fish, chicken preferably the breast, and eggs are an important part of a balanced diet. Include a variety of different protein sources in your trolley for family meals.
  3. Dairy or dairy alternatives – Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are great sources of calcium which is good for bones, and other nutrients. Keep it simple by opting for plain Greek yoghurt and adding your own fruit, as fruit‐flavoured versions are often very high in sugar. If a family member is intolerant to dairy, choose alternatives like soy, almond, oat or rice milk.
  4. Whole grain foods (breads, pasta, rice etc) – Whole grains are a good source of energy and important nutrients. When you’re shopping for breads, pastas and rice, look for their least processed versions. For example, whole oats are preferable to instant oats, wholemeal pasta is better than white pasta and brown rice is more nutritious than its white counterpart. When choosing whole grain cereals or muesli look for options containing around 3g of fibre per serve and less than 15g of sugar per 100g. You could also try grain options such as quinoa, which is becoming more and more popular. Quinoa is cooked like rice and found in the health food section.
  5. Canned and dried foods – Beans and lentils are a great source of protein and other important vitamins and minerals. Having a variety on hand can be useful to toss into soup, salad, pasta and rice dishes. Cans of tuna, preferably in spring water, are another good item for a healthy shopping trolley and can be a cheap addition to sandwiches, salads or dinner meals. Also consider a variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits for a nutritious and satisfying snack.
  6. Condiments – Herbs and spices can be used to enhance the flavours of everyday dishes. A variety of healthy oils such as olive oil, macadamia oil and sunflower oil are also a good addition to a healthy pantry. When purchasing soy sauce, look for the ‘tamari’ version, which is lower in salt.
  7. Other – You may wish to add a couple of ‘treats’ to your weekly shop. Where possible look for items with little or no processing and fewer additives.

Other tips for savvy shopping include:

  • Write a list first, which will help you save money and reduce wastage
  • Stick to the outside lanes as this is where fruits, vegies, dairy and meats are usually kept.
  • Avoid the centre aisles where tempting junk foods lurk.
  • Avoid shopping when hungry, this goes for your kids too, which can make it more difficult to avoid all the junk‐food choices lining the shelves
  • Don’t forget your re‐usable shopping bags!