Food Shopping Tips for a Balanced Diet

couple grocery shopping and reading a food label

Healthy eating starts with having nutritious foods in your home. With so many options, knowing what to choose can be a challenge. Rest assured, with a little preparation and knowledge, choosing foods that are nutritious can be easy!

1. Have a plan: Create a weekly meal plan based on Canada’s Food Guide .

​Check out these menu plans for inspiration:

Family-Friendly One-Week Sample Menu Plan
Sample Meal Plan for Feeding Your Preschooler
Sample Meal Plan for Gluten-Free Living
Diabetes Menu Plan for Prevention and Management
2. Make a list: Use your meal plan to make a grocery shopping list. Use this grocery store checklist.

3. Stick to it: Use your shopping list and stick to it at the grocery store.

How to make nutritious choices with Canada's Food Guide:

Choosing a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and protein foods can help you achieve a balanced, healthy eating plan.
Spend most of your time in the produce, bread, milk and meat sections of the store, where you will find a variety of fresh foods recommended in Canada's Food Guide.

Enjoy plenty of vegetables and fruit.

Try making half your meal vegetables and fruit. Vegetables and fruits have important nutrients like fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.. Fresh, frozen or canned are all good choices. If you use canned vegetables, choose ones with less or no added salt (sodium). Look for canned fruits packed in water or natural juice.

Choose whole grains.

Enjoy a variety of whole grains such as barley, whole grain pasta, quinoa, oats and brown rice. Whole grains are higher in fibre and important nutrients which may help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Look for the words "whole grain whole wheat flour", whole rye, whole oat or oatmeal, whole corn, whole barley, etc., at the beginning of the ingredient list on packaged grain products and choose grain products that are low in saturated fat, sugar and salt (sodium).

Choose plant-based proteins more often.

Plant-based proteins tend to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat than animal proteins which is good for heart health. Choose beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds and fortified plant-based beverages more often. When choosing animal proteins, buy unprocessed and leaner cuts of meat. Choose lower fat milk and yogurt options and those with no added sugar. Make sure to include a source of omega-3 fats in your diet, like from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines or trout. 

Choose healthy oils and fats

Choose vegetable oils such as canola, olive, and soybean, low fat-mayonnaise and soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans fats. Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.

Limit processed foods

Keep in mind that food and beverages that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt (sodium) should be limited but can be enjoyed at times. These include foods like cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, French fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks.

Read the Nutrition Facts Table

Use the Nutrition Facts table on food labels to choose nutritious products with less saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. The % Daily Value tells you if the food has a little or a lot of a particular nutrient. 5% DV means a food has a little of a nutrient. 15% DV means a food has a lot of a nutrient. Remember that the calorie and nutrient content that is listed is based on the amount of food specified in the serving size at the top of the table.

How can a dietitian help?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counselling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian will work with you to give you personalized advice that meets your lifestyle and goals. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

A little bit of planning goes a long way to helping you eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Start with a few small changes each week using this article as a guide.

You may also be interested in:

Easy Meals for Great Leftovers e-Book
Understanding Food Labels in Canada
Where Do Dietitians Work and What Do They Do?
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – February 17, 2023

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