Eating Clean: How to Grocery Shop

I love to shop anywhere: small boutiques, big malls, online specialty sites and grocery stores. Over the past few years, with a focus on healthy living, I’ve found that I approach shopping differently. I plan (a little) more, occasionally pay (a little) more and focus (a little) more. The results…I now actually LOVE wholesome food and eating clean. Who would have thought that this former Diet Dr. Pepper, Hostess Snowballs and gummy cola bottle addict would snack on carrots and crave avocados?

I don’t follow one “diet” per se, I strive to eat “clean.” Most of what I eat is wholesome, solid foods made from only a few ingredients. I model my choices off of the Alkaline and Mediterranean Diets as I discussed on The Dr. Oz Show, focusing mostly on plant-based foods. I’ve figured out meals that I like and that satisfy me. It look a little bit of experimentation, but now it’s easy. Here are some of my favorite tips to make the grocery shopping experience easy while focusing on healthy eating.

Eating Clean: How to Grocery Shop

1. Planning

Many people cringe when it comes to meal planning, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate. A few minutes before you enter the store, scribble a shopping list organizing ingredients and products by meals. If you are carting kids around for activities, ask them to help. My son loves writing out our list. When he was younger, he drew pictures since he couldn’t write well.

2. Start in the Produce Aisle

Think about how you can add fruit and veggies to all meals and snacks. Fill the cart with tons of produce that your family may like. We’re big snackers, so I like to have tons of fresh fruit and veggies around the house. I also know that hummus, organic flavored oils and dressings help motivate my kid to eat more vegetables. I add a huge side of berries at breakfast, a few stand-alone fruits or carrots at lunch and then two sides of different veggies at dinner. Before my family got used to eating more produce at meals, I started our clean eating regimen by blending green smoothies for breakfast and/or after-noon snacks. They still love them, so these are a staple in our home.

3. Buy Organic or No-Hormones Added Meat & Dairy

While I’m vegan for my own health reasons, my son and husband eat meat and dairy. I do focus on lean proteins and be sure that they are all organic. In some cases, I will look for items that are made with no hormones added to them. For dairy products, I look for products made from milk without rBST or BGH.

4. Look for Packaged Goods with the Organic or Non-GMO Label

Living a busy life means eating in a rush and on-the-go. There are plenty of fresh foods to select, but I’m also realistic and know that packaged goods are easy and help tremendously in a bind. So, when I buy them, I always look for the organic or non-GMO label on it. These stickers indicate that the ingredients are made with less chemicals, so likely better than some of the alternatives. My son loves brands like Amy’s and Annie’s Organics as well as several other clean-ish packaged goods. Also, look for items with only a few ingredients.

Organic and non-GMO stickers

5. Look out for Sugar Content

If you like pasta sauces, yogurt, breads, salad dressings and dips, be sure to check out the sugar content in them. The World Health Organization makes recommendations for the U.S. dietary guidelines and recently suggested that Americans need to greatly decrease their sugar intake. The guidelines suggest eating much less sugar, no more than 10% of your calories. NPR reported last month that on average people consume 22 tsps. a day, so for someone with a 2000 calorie diet this amounts to cut over half their intake. This means more than just stopping eating candy and sweet cereals. Many packaged products contain hidden sugars in them. When trying to eat clean, we find substitutes for these items including trading flavored yogurt for plain yogurt while adding a tad of honey. We also love-making our own oil & vinegar dressings and using hummus or guacamole for dips.

To read more lifestyle tips on grocery shopping with a focus on healthy living, check out WTNH’s CT Style Multimedia Journalist, Meghan Yost’s, feature. The video below highlights our trip to the Elm City Market. We had a blast chatting clean-eating and showcasing some of this information.

What are your favorite healthy living tips for buying food?



  1. Oh my goodness, this is SO good! I LOVE your video, really well done! I can’t wait to see more!
    Kristen recently posted…Things I Never Thought I’d Say, And Then I Became a Mom

    • Yay. I’m so glad you liked it. I had a ton of fun grocery shopping with the reporter. She loves healthy living, too, so it was a really awesome working session.

  2. Great tips! My favorite tip is looking at the nutrition labels and checking the ingredients and sugar content. There is so much added sugar in everything we eat, so gross!
    rachel @ athletic avocado recently posted…Paleo Elvis Breakfast Cobbler

    • I know. I can’t believe how many places sugar is hidden. I used to crave sugar all the time because it was in everything I consumed. Ever since I started eating clean, I don’t really crave sugary foods anymore, too.

  3. My grocery list consists of like 3 things: spinach, salmon and uh, squash? Or maybe just two things? I typically just buy drinks! ha ha ah ah! Zevia, yes please!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…(Not A) Fashion Faux Pas-ta Puttanesca

    • You were on a roll…all S items (salmon, spinach and squash.) And then you said Zevia….although Zevia is made with Stevia, so maybe that counts. :)

  4. Reading this made me realize that I need to do a diet reset. I have been indulging in junk since the Christmas season. My health (and weight) are showing it too.

    These are some fabulous tips Caryn. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Pinning this to my Clean Eating Board.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…10 Ways to Calm Down Before You Blow Up

    • I totally get it. It’s so much easier in the summer when it’s warm to eat well. I think we all crave watermelon and juicy fruits and veggies. When it’s cold, we want thick soups and bready-carbs. I’m looking forward to spring for great weather and fresh garden food at my fingertips. (P.S. That’s a little foreshadowing…I’m hoping to start a garden.)

  5. Holy cow that is a lot of sugar! We don’t do hardly any high sugary foods, but we do a lot of salad dressings and yogurt. I need to look at all of that and see if there are some changes I can make. Thanks for the heads up!
    Jen recently posted…You Can Call Me Lucky

    • I’m glad that you found this helpful. There’s sugar hidden in a ton of crackers/bready items, too. I really loved loved loved sugar…but I don’t miss it now that I’ve found other foods that I love.

  6. Really good tips Caryn. I’ve been researching the Alkaline diet. I recently read Kate Hudson’s book, Pretty Happy, and she’s a big proponent of that diet. And I need to get better about meal planning!
    Allie recently posted…Superwoman or Everywoman?

    • Thanks Allie. I haven’t read Kate Hudson’s book, but I am a fan of hers. She is an advocate of clean aka healthy living so I respect her. Have a great week.

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