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How to Grocery Shop in a Healthy Way

Jun 30, 2020

Hi!  It's Karen, from Karen Vincent Solutions.

Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry?  Yup…me too and it never turns out well. There you go…tip #1, never go to the grocery store hungry!  I will say more about this in the tips section below, but I wanted to just get that out there right away so that if you don’t read any further, you’ve heard that critical piece of advice.

Whether you love to grocery shop or hate it, a trip to the store can result in your leaving with a cart of very healthy foods that set you up for success or a cart with foods that will tempt you throughout the week and make it hard to stay on track with any health goals you may have.  The easiest way to “shop healthy” is to follow the 7 tips below. It takes a little preparation but if it sets you up for success for the entire week, I will argue that it is worth it.

7 tips for shopping healthy.

  1. Never go to the grocery store hungry. I will say a little more about this because it is sometimes easier said than done when you are busy, working late, driving kids from one thing to the next and then trying to fit in grocery shopping as well.  If this is your lifestyle, you should always try to have a healthy snack on hand that you can eat before going into the store. Even if you make it out of the store without grabbing chips and cookies, you will likely be fighting yourself the whole time you are in there and that does not feel good.  For me, when I go to the store hungry, I can usually make it through and stay on track (because of the tips below), but then…it happens. I stand in line at the checkout with the cute little mini-can of sour cream Pringles staring at me and it suddenly seems like the best idea in the world for me to have them as a snack on my drive home.  For goodness sake, they fit perfectly in the cup holder…it feels like it was meant to be!  I eat them, wish I had not and tell myself I will never go to the store hungry again…until I do…and repeat.  Just don’t do it…it is not worth it to test our willpower that way. 


  1. Have a list and stick to it. Most of my tips for creating positive habits and for achieving goals involves having a clear plan. Having a list at the grocery store IS your plan. Depending on how frequently you shop (I shop weekly), decide what you will eat for each meal and whether you will have any snacks and make a list of exactly what you need to buy. I used to go crazy when I went to the store with my husband because he walks back and forth looking at everything and then decides what he will make for a meal.  He is an amazing cook but still…have a plan buddy! If I did that, all kinds of random things would end up in my shopping cart and I would forget other necessary things.  For me, what works is to have a detailed list that supports the healthy eating I want to do that week and then to stick to the list (which I can do if I follow rule #1!).


  1. Shop the parameter of the store. Picture your grocery store.  The produce, seafood, meats and dairy are likely on the right-hand side, looping around the back and then back down the left-hand side. This is where the healthiest foods in the store “live” and if you stick to these aisles, you are likely buying healthier food. Notice I said “healthier” because not all the food around the parameter of the store is healthy and perhaps not all is healthy for you specifically, based on your food sensitivities and eating plan. Now think about what food is in the middle aisles…sweets, chips, bread, packaged food, pasta, frozen dinners, ice cream, etc. The reality is that you will need some things in the aisles (water, spices and olive oil to name a few), so I am not suggesting you never venture down them. I am just suggesting that you be thoughtful of what you are buying and don’t leave the store with tons of packaged, “fake” foods. Instead, stick to the parameter where you will find mostly whole foods.


  1. Avoid the endcaps. The endcaps are the sections at the ends of the aisles where there are better deals and lots of processed, sugar filled, salty and unhealthy foods. I should add in “yummy” as a descriptor for what lives on the endcaps as well. Keep in mind, grocery stores are a business and they need to get us to buy their product. Putting the unhealthy but delicious items at the end of the aisles gives them good visibility so they temp us as we walk by. Then, by putting them on sale, they can seal the deal and before we know what is happening, they are in our cart. I suggest that you beware, be thoughtful and skip the endcaps unless they have whole foods on them.


  1. Beware of the coupons. Can coupons save you lots of money?  Of course, and you should use them if they are for something you would already buy that fits in your eating plan. However, the danger with coupons is that we see something that looks like a great deal and then we justify buying it because it will “save us money”.  The truth is, if it is not something that you buy anyway, it is not saving you money. My mother is the queen of coupons and she saves a ton of money by being planful with them. However, growing up…and to this day…if we see a new food item in the house, we will always joke and ask, did you have a coupon for that? The answer is yes 99% of the time! Use coupons to try out new, healthy foods or to buy the things you are already eating that are healthy. For all other things, be careful you don’t get sucked into buying something that derails you from your goals simply because you had a coupon.


  1. Shop for you and then shop for them. I want to acknowledge that it is hard when you are trying to be healthy and you live with others who could care less about eating healthy.  Especially if you have children who are wanting food that you don’t want to be consuming…well…maybe you WANT to, but you DON’T because you are working towards your health goals. There is not one easy answer since the situation will be different based on your family (or roommate) dynamic. Of course, you can try to get them to eat healthier but that may or may not work. My best suggestion is to have two lists with one containing the food you are buying for others that you are not going to consume. This is a bit of a mind hack, but it works.  Keeping the list separate can help you maintain the mindset that that is food for “them” and not for you.  If possible (and it is), bag “their” food separately and when you get home, store it all together as separately as possible.  This is all mindset since, of course, you still have access to it, but it can make it easier to avoid the temptation since you are reinforcing in your brain, multiple times, that certain foods are not for you. 


  1. Order your food online. This is a wonderful option for a couple of reasons.  First, you are busy and overscheduled much of the time and this saves time.  Some food delivery programs give you just a two-hour window, so it does not inconvenience your whole day.  Second, you can do it from home or work…or wherever…and you can review your order before placing it.  You get to thoroughly review your order and check how much you are spending before making the purchase.  I can’t tell you how many times this has resulted in my deleting things from my cart.  It also makes sticking to my list much easier.   While there is usually a cost associated with this, I find that I back out a couple items I really don’t need so that I don’t end up spending more or much more.  I also consider the time I save by not having to physically go to the store.  This is a personal choice and if it is not something you can afford today, perhaps you could consider it for the future. 

Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and your lifestyle but implementing any of these tips can help you move closer to your goals.  Did I mention that you should never go to the grocery store hungry? This rule applies to online grocery shopping as well.  Hopefully you have that tip solidified in your mind by now! 

Live your best Boss Lady life!

~ Karen

Karen Vincent Solutions

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