Canada's food guide

Healthier grocery shopping

The grocery store is a great place to help you eat healthier. It’s easier to make healthy meals and snacks when your kitchen is stocked with healthy foods.

Make healthy choices at the grocery store

Many food decisions are made when grocery shopping. This can include figuring out how many vegetables and what kind of protein foods to buy. Whether you shop at the grocery store, local market or online, the foods you buy are important.

Grocery shopping is your chance to choose the ingredients you use when preparing your meals and snacks. These decisions influence your eating pattern.

Stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients makes it easier to prepare and eat healthy meals and snacks. Likewise, buying highly processed foods may cause you to eat more of these less healthy foods.

When you grocery shop, you can rely less on food from restaurants, fast food outlets, or work or school cafeterias.

5 steps to healthier grocery shopping

Use these 5 steps to help you make healthier food choices when you are grocery shopping.

  1. Be prepared

    Plan ahead and always shop with a grocery list. This will save you time and money and help you buy only for the foods you need.

    Part of being prepared includes not shopping on an empty stomach. If you shop when you are hungry, you may buy foods you don’t need.

  2. Fill your cart with healthy choices

    Fill your cart or basket with:

    • vegetables and fruits
    • whole grain foods
    • protein foods
      • choose protein foods that come from plants more often

    Use grocery shopping as a chance to find new healthy foods.

    Your cart should be colourful. As a helpful tip, make half of the items in your shopping cart vegetables and fruits. In-season vegetables and fruits are often:

    • tastier
    • fresher
    • less expensive

    Choose affordable options when you are grocery shopping on a budget.

  3. Assess your shopping habits

    Keep track of where in the grocery store you are spending time and the types of foods you put in your shopping cart. Certain aisles, freezers and the ready-to-eat food sections are full of processed and prepared foods that have added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

    Limit the amount of highly processed foods in your basket. If you buy these foods and have them in your house, you are more likely to eat them.

    Take time to look at food labels. These help you to compare products and choose the healthier option.

    Notice if marketing is influencing your food choices while grocery shopping. Being aware of marketing can help you make healthier choices. Examples of marketing in grocery stores that can affect your purchases include:

    • free samples
    • promotional items
    • product placement
    • colourful packaging

    Involve others. Encourage your family and friends to choose healthy foods they like while grocery shopping. Make grocery shopping a fun and interactive activity for kids.

    Skip out on grabbing last-minute items from the checkout aisle. These tend to be expensive and are usually not healthy options.

  4. Think of the environment

    Use reusable shopping bags. Bringing reusable bags with you helps reduce the use of plastic bags, which are harmful to the environment.

    Choose products with less packaging. A lot of food packages end up in the garbage. Buying food from the bulk section helps reduce the amount of packaging used.

  5. Try making an impact at your grocery store

    Get involved in making your local grocery store a healthier food environment.

    If you want a certain item and can’t find it, ask. Showing your interest can encourage the manager to stock healthy items.

    Give your grocery store feedback. Let them know if you think they use too much packaging. Share ideas to replace checkout aisle snacks with healthy options.

    Encourage your grocery store to promote healthy food choices instead of highly processed foods. For example, encourage them to offer free stickers or fruit to kids instead of offering free cookies.

    Encourage your store to consider services and activities that encourage healthy eating such as:

    • cooking classes to practice making healthy meals
    • tours with a dietitian to learn more about healthy food choices

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Be aware of food marketing

Make a healthy choice

What you eat on a regular basis matters for your health.

  • Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
  • Compare the nutrition facts table on foods to choose products that are lower in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

Further reading

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