Eating more whole, real foods that support the health of your brain and body begins at the grocery store. Filling your cart, your pantry and your fridge with foods that help you harness the power of nutrition gets you one big step closer to improved energy, mental clarity, immunity, digestion, moods, skin and so much more. But what to do when you’re surrounded by highly palatable, convenient packaged and processed foods in every corner of the grocery store? How do you navigate the aisles without unintentionally loading your cart with hard to resist comfort foods, cookies, candies and sugar cereals? Below are my tips to help you create a sustainable, affordable healthy grocery shopping routine that still leaves room for treats and chocolate. Plenty of chocolate.


  1. GO WITH A LIST & A PLAN that emphasizes whole, real foods. Having at least a rough idea of the kind of breakfasts, lunches and dinners you’d like to put together over the week will help you avoid wandering from aisle to aisle and ending up with a cart full of random things you don’t need.

  2. THE ENDS ARE YOUR FRIENDS: Notice how produce, meat, dairy, eggs and the salad bar are all on the end isles of the grocery store? Now notice how the cookies, sugar cereals, candy and ice cream are in the center isles? Most of the health promoting foods that will make you feel healthy and energized are found on the perimeter of the grocery store. Spend most of your time there.

  3. START IN THE PRODUCE AISLE: Filling at least 1/2 your plate at each meal with leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables will improve digestion, energy and even moods. This means you need a lot of veggies! Kale, chard, spinach, salad greens, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, berries and other seasonal fruit are all nutrient dense foods that will help you make colorful, nutritious plant foods the focus on your trip to the grocery store.

  4. TACKLE WHOLE FOOD PANTRY STAPLES NEXT: Whole grains like black or brown rice, quinoa, or amaranth are great unprocessed sources of carbohydrates. Legumes are excellent sources of slow-burning carbs and fiber (most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber); lentils are also a decent source of protein if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Don’t forget raw or dry-roasted unsalted nuts and seeds too, they’re nutrient power houses, great whole food snacks and a fun way to dress up soups, salads and buddha bowls.

  5. BUDGET FOR HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN with this in mind: you don’t have to have massive amounts of animal protein at every single meal. Finding the right amount and right kind of protein for your individual needs can take some experimentation, but before you lament over sticker shock with pasture-raised eggs and wild fish, remember that 2 eggs at breakfast and 3-5 oz of fish, poultry or meat at lunch and dinner is sufficient for most people. Spring for the good stuff, just buy less of it, and fill the rest of your plate with things like grains (if they work for you), loads of veggies, nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados.

  6. BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT TREATS: I love dessert and eat it daily. Shopping and eating to support your health through nutrition doesn’t mean you can’t have cookies (thank God). I’ve learned deprivation doesn’t actually work for anyone longterm, but being mindful and intentional about your indulgences does. Before you walk through the heavenly Trader Joe’s cookie and frozen foods aisle, decide what treats, snacks or desserts you want to include for the week. Pick one or two treats to have around in advance of navigating the delectable smells, bright colors and yummy samples that are all designed to encourage excessive impulse purchases. Especially if you have a tricky relationship with sweets or a tendency to overeat desserts (like I used to), giving yourself permission to enjoy with the intention to do so mindfully can be tremendously supportive of a healthier relationship with food.

  7. CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO MINIMIZE PACKAGED, PROCESSED FOODS in the store and it will help you naturally gravitate towards whole, real foods at home and on the go. Typically buy sugary granola bars for snacks? Try buying dry-roasted nuts and fresh berries for snacks this week instead. Typically eat cereal for breakfast? Grab some eggs, avocado and seedy toast or oatmeal, berries and additive free nut butter instead.

  8. BUY IN BULK TO SAVE money and waste. Shop for nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit and even sugars and flours in the bulk bin section of your grocery store. You’re not paying for packaging or shelf space, so bulk items offer great savings. Consider bringing your own mason jars or reusable containers to reduce plastic usage too! No bulk bins in your grocery store? Try Costco or see below for tips for buying in bulk online.

  9. BUY SPECIALTY ITEMS, SPICES AND MORE ONLINE: I’ve learned that everything from supplements to sauces, spices, and specialty items like coconut aminos or low sodium/wheat free soy sauce (aka tamari) are always significantly cheaper online. I buy spices in bulk, supplements like fish oil and non-toxic personal care items from Vitacost, where they are way cheaper than Whole Foods and even Amazon. (Amazon is often NOT the cheapest, though sometimes the most convenient.)