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6 ways to grocery shop for better health

Savvy shoppers know these tricks for selecting healthy foods

You may not think of your grocery cart as a tool for healthy living. But it certainly is. Where you steer it — and how you fill it — can help you eat better.

Healthy eating habits may help prevent some of the most serious health risks around, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

Roll this way, shoppers

These six grocery-buying tips are health-wise — and may help you get the most for your money too:

1. Be a label reader. The Nutrition Facts can be enlightening, especially when comparing similar types of food. You might get information that helps you avoid excess calories and limit sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar.

Tip: For a quick primer on reading food labels, check out this cool tool.

2. Pause among the produce. A colorful variety of fruits and veggies is definitely cart-worthy. They’re fiber-rich and supply essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, they’re good for your waistline. You’ll get more flavor — and spend less — if you buy what’s in season. But canned or frozen versions can be equally nutritious — and sometimes cheaper.

Tip: Healthier canned choices include fruit packed in water or 100 percent juice, and veggies labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.” In the freezer section, look for options that also skip the added sugar, saturated fat and sodium.

3. Make at least half your grains whole. Some go-to choices include:

  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, pasta and tortillas
  • Brown rice, bulgur and barley  
  • Oatmeal, 100 percent bran or shredded wheat cereals
  • Whole-wheat crackers and plain popcorn

Tip: Be sure a whole grain is listed as the first ingredient. If a food has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, it’s a good source of fiber. If it has 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, it’s an excellent source of fiber.*

4. Seek seafood for a boatload of benefits. Experts on nutrition recommend eating fish and other seafood at least twice a week.** Some good choices that offer healthy omega-3 fatty acids and tend to be lower in mercury include:

  • Salmon and trout
  • Atlantic and Pacific mackerel (not king mackerel)
  • Pacific oysters
  • Anchovies and sardines

Tip: If fresh seafood is costly or scarce, try frozen or canned varieties that are packed in water.

5. Go lean with protein. Besides fish, other great protein choices to buy include:

  • Skinless poultry breasts
  • Eggs
  • Dried beans and other legumes — which may cost less than meat

Tip: When buying ground meat, look for options that are at least 97 percent lean.***

6. Moo-ve over to low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. You’ll get the calcium and other nutrients, without the excess calories and saturated fat.

Tip: Love cheese? Look for “low-fat” or “reduced fat” on the label. Try different brands and types to find what you like best.  

What to do next

Put your groceries to good use! Try a healthy new recipe this week. From appetizers to snacks, soups to sides, check out some delicious and nutritious options.

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*Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

**Certain people need to be cautious about methylmercury — the type of mercury that builds up in fish. This includes young children — as well as women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are nursing. Learn more at epa.gov. Search for “mercury in fish.”

***Source: National Institutes of Health

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