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Tips for Smart Food Shopping

Shopping for food can be a hassle. How much to buy? What kind? What to do with it at home? Read on — you’ll find that there is a happy medium between not having enough for dinner and throwing away a drawer of produce that's gone bad.

The Basics

What to Buy and When

Produce: Stock enough fresh, canned or frozen varieties for 5 or more servings a day.

Seasonal Selections

  • Winter: oranges, grapefruit, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, cabbage, greens
  • Spring: asparagus, spinach, sweet peas, rhubarb
  • Summer: berries, peaches, melons, cherries, green beans, zucchini
  • Fall: apples, pears, acorn and butternut squash, cauliflower

Refrigerator Timeline

Short-term:

  • Green beans
  • Unshucked corn
  • Asparagus
  • Berries and cherries

Long-term:

  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Apricots
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Spinach

Whole Grains

Be sure to read labels carefully. If the first ingredient listed isn’t “100 percent whole wheat,” “whole grain” or “whole oats,” it doesn’t have all the beneficial fiber and nutrients.

Try:

  • Whole-wheat pastas and breads
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Kasha
  • Bran cereal
  • Brown rice

Dried Beans

Just 1 cup of beans a day gives you half your recommended daily intake of fiber and about 15-20 grams of protein! Plus they’re packed with cancer-fighting folate.

Try:

  • Fava beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans

Soy: Still a bean, but comes in a ton of varieties

Try:

  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Soy nuts
  • Edamame

Fish

Canned, frozen or fresh, fish are a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

There are important consumption limits for women and children due to mercury content:

  • Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackere, and tilefish.
  • May have up to 12 ounces (2-4 servings) per week of fish with low mercury content like trout, halibut, flounder and tuna.
  • Albacore tuna is higher in mercury; limit consumption to 6 ounces per week for women and 3 small servings for children.

Lean Meat and Poultry

These are a healthful alternative to harmful red and processed meats, limit serving sizes to 3 ounces to make room for fruits and veggies on your plate.

A Few Extras

Give any meal a splash of variety with these fun additions.

Herbs and Spices

Many contain necessary phytochemicals, which are thought to be cancer protective.

Try:

  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Cloves

Oils

  • Olive: heart-healthy and won’t raise cholesterol
  • Canola: contains omega-3 fatty acid
  • Flaxseed: use sparingly, but also contains omega-3 fatty acid

Condiments

Throw out the old, full-fat mayonnaise and try one of these.

  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
Food Shopping Aisle

Published on June 9, 2011

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