You may enjoy grocery shopping, or you may hate it—but either way, it’s something we all have to do if we want to eat, right? Grocery shopping can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are winging it without a game plan for what meals and snacks to make for the week ahead. You don’t want to buy more than what you will eat, and then waste food and money throwing things out. You also want to buy enough so that you are not relying on takeout. There are a few things you can do to take some of the stress out of the equation.


At Home

Step 1: Before selecting recipes, you first need to take into consideration how much time you will have during the week to prepare meals. If you are working late or have a kid’s sporting event to attend in the evening, preparing a complicated recipe that requires a lot of prep and cook time isn’t ideal. Those are the nights when having leftovers or an easy-to-prepare meal are perfect, so plan to make extra portions of the previous night’s dinner, if possible.


Step 2: Next, create a shopping list. But first, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have on hand and if there is anything that should be used before it expires. Have a half a bag of spinach left over from last week that is starting to wilt? Plan to make a meal using cooked spinach earlier in the week to use it up. Pull some frozen chicken out of the freezer first before buying more. You get the idea!


Step 3: Get out the weekly grocery flyer and see what is on sale and in season. Start with your protein foods first, as that is your main priority, and then choose a vegetable that will pair nicely with it. Frozen vegetables you can steam are an easy and affordable option for those nights where you don’t want to waste time washing and chopping! If you eat seafood, plan to cook that at the beginning of the week, as it is more perishable than other types of proteins. Canned tuna and chicken, frozen turkey burgers, tofu, or vacuum-sealed chicken and turkey sausages are great items to save for the end of the week as they last longer. If time is a barrier to eating healthy, consider spending a little extra on precut fruits and vegetables rather than assuming you’ll have the time or energy to do it yourself. You might be surprised at how much more veggies and fruit you eat when the prep work has been done for you!


At the Store

Step 1: Do not go to the grocery store when you are hungry. Everything will look and smell extra appetizing, and you will buy things you don’t need—including foods that are less healthy. Get out your shopping list and stick to it! Most grocery stores are laid out so that when you enter, you are in the produce department first. I like to keep my vegetable choices flexible, as sometimes stores run out of sale items or they may not look very good when you get there and something else may be calling your name! Stock up on those non-starch veggies listed in your handbook!


Step 2: Protein is the priority on your list, so this might mean heading to the meat, deli and/or fish counters at your supermarket. Not sure which cuts of beef or pork are considered “lean?” Just ask the butcher for help. When thinking of high-protein foods, don’t forget about dairy: low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks and eggs are excellent sources of protein, too! Check out the brand FairLife or SkimPlus, which makes ultra-filtered milk that has had the lactose removed, lowering the carbohydrate count and increasing the amount of protein!

Pro tip: If you do not eat meat or dairy, opt for plant-based alternatives that are higher in protein, such as soy or pea-protein-based milk (like the brand Ripple) or another alternative that has at least 6 to 8 grams of protein per serving (the equivalent of regular dairy milk). When looking for veggie burgers or other plant-based meat alternatives, choose one that has at least 8 to 10 grams of protein per serving, and be careful with the carbohydrate amount, as many meatless products use grains, potatoes or corn. Look for those with fewer than 20 grams of net carbohydrates.


Step 3: Don’t avoid the center aisles completely! At this point, your cart is stocked with healthy produce and plenty of protein options. But you still may need some sugar-free beverages, broths, marinades, salad dressings, vinegars, spices and other condiments. Don’t forget to READ THE NUTRITION LABEL. Learn about the food you are buying. Try to keep the added sugar low! Many sauces and dressings are filled with added sugar and sodium. If you are post-op in maintenance phase, look for high-fiber starches, such as quinoa, oats, bean pastas, brown or wild rice, low carb wraps and breads, etc.


Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.
  • Go with a shopping plan and purchase a variety of high-protein foods and plenty of produce!
  • Decide on which center-aisle items you may need that are low-sugar or sugar free, and/or high-fiber items if you are in maintenance phase.
  • Read the nutrition labels!  
  • Go home, put the groceries away and call it a day. You can meal-prep later that evening after some rest—or better yet, the next day!


Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Baulick, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-2830 or

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