Step 3: Shop and Plan
Whether you are simply improving food choices or following a low-calorie meal plan, planning ahead is important for success. The Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsrecommends that you start with a thoughtful grocery list. Make this list after planning meals for the week, and take note of what you already have on hand. When shopping, choose foods from all food groups and don’t let yourself get distracted by foods not on your list.
Aim to purchase:
- A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, including salad greens, in-season produce and any of your favorite fruits and vegetables. And remember to include white foods like cauliflower, mushrooms and onions, too. Try to purchase mostly fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, although other options such as canned tomatoes or dried mushrooms may be handy pantry staples.
- Fiber-rich grains such as oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, barley, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, and brown or wild rice. Black beans, lentils, pinto beans or other legumes are also nutritious, high-fiber and protein-rich foods that can be purchased dried, frozen, steamed or canned.
- Unsalted nuts and seeds. Although the recommended portions may be small, these foods are great sources of plant protein and healthy fats.
- Lean protein foods such as fish, shellfish, chicken and lean cuts of beef or pork. Also try incorporate more plant protein choices, including tofu, soy products, veggie burgers, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Calcium-rich foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, plain yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and unsweetened plant-based milk (like soy, almond or cashew). A variety of green vegetables, nuts and seeds are also good sources of calcium.
- Fresh herbs, lemon and lime juice, vinegar, and your favorite herbs and spices. Also keep some healthy fats and oils on hand for moderate use, such as olive oil.