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Gear up to grocery shop with five tips to make food shopping healthy and fun.

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Smart Food Shopping — Part Three:
Soups, Ethnic Foods, Seasonings, Meat, Poultry and Frozen Foods
by Christine Palumbo, RD

Last time we discussed shopping for snacks, beverages, oils and dairy. Let's continue our shopping tour. Keep in mind these general guidelines:

  • Your best bet is to concentrate your shopping time around the periphery of the store — the produce, meat, dairy and bakery sections. But don't stop there, you'll find nutritious foods like beans, whole grains, and cereal in the middle aisles.
  • Read labels carefully and look for foods that are minimally processed. Choose 100% fruit juice over a fruit juice blend; plain frozen vegetables over those with butter sauces; fresh poultry or meat over those already seasoned; whole fresh potatoes over prepared French fries or scalloped potatoes.
  • Dairy products are an exception to the minimally processed rule. It's better to buy versions where naturally occurring fat has been removed, such as fat free milk or low fat cheese.


  • Look for fat free and lower sodium varieties.
  • Bean, pea or lentil soups provide fiber, folate and protein, and are so satisfying.
  • Reduce sodium levels of dry soup mixes, by using 1/2 the seasoning packet.

Ethnic Foods

  • Mexican — Look for taco seasoning with less sodium. Salsa is a great low calorie source of lycopene. Black bean dip is often fat free.
  • Asian — Watch out for fried chow mein noodles. You can now buy brown sticky rice, a whole grain. Lite soy sauce (530 mg for 1 Tbsp) saves sodium compared to regular (1,260 mg).
  • Middle Eastern — Bulgur, or cracked whole wheat, is a delicious side dish when cooked with chopped onion and chicken broth.
  • Italian — Buy Romano or Parmesan cheese in a chunk and grate your own. It's so flavorful, you'll use less than the pre-grated.


  • Use herbs and spices to add flavor and zest to your meals.
  • Some seasonings that appear salt free can be deceiving. For example, the first ingredient in lemon pepper is salt.

Meat Case

  • Think food safety! Buy meats and frozen foods last. Slip a plastic produce bag around meats to catch any loose drips.
  • You can save time by purchasing pre-cut chicken breast, beef strips and diced chicken breast meat. Watch out for sodium content.
  • Skinless boneless chicken breasts are versatile and inexpensive. Save more money by stocking up when they go on sale.
  • Ground turkey can contain skin and fat along with the lean. Three ounces cooked ground turkey breast, has only 130 calories and 1/2 gram of fat, and can be used in chili, tacos, burritos and stuffed peppers.
  • Lean beef and pork supply iron, zinc and B vitamins. Look for the words round or loin when shopping for beef, and the words loin or leg when buying pork.

Frozen Foods

  • Pizza can be a healthful meal if you choose cheese pizza topped with vegetables. Or buy plain cheese and add your own veggies like mushrooms, green or red peppers, onions, or black olives.
  • What appears to be a single serving of pizza may actually be three! Read the Nutrition Facts Label to find out for sure. Steer clear of pizza with extra cheese or meat.
  • Waffles (including whole wheat), buttermilk pancakes, breakfast burritos and French toast, make a healthful breakfast easy and fast.
  • Be leery of high fat French fries, hash browns, and potato "taters."
  • Plain frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. You'll also find blends like Italian, Mexican, California, soup, and fiesta. Steer clear of glazed and butter sauces. Some are now "skillet meals" with chicken, beef or cheese added.
  • Frozen fruit, like whole strawberries, cherries, sliced peaches, blueberries, and melon balls are great for baking, as toppings, or used for smoothies.

That's it! Happy grocery shopping!

About Christine Palumbo

Christine Palumbo, MBA, RD has been a nutrition communications consultant since 1989, providing dietary counsel and analysis on various nutrition, health and weight management topics to corporate clients and news media outlets nationwide. An active member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the Illinois Dietetic Association, Chicago Dietetic Association for more than twenty years, she has served on a variety of boards and practice group committees within those organizations. In 1981 and 1982, Palumbo was honored by the Chicago Dietetic Association and the Illinois Dietetic Association, respectively, as the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year.

Palumbo has been featured as the expert speaker in numerous national health panels and has published many articles and pamphlets regarding nutrition and healthcare. She has been featured in national women's, health and business magazines, daily newspapers and local and national radio programs. Palumbo has also appeared on numerous local and national TV news programs, including a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997 on the health benefits of drinking water.  


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