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A Look At a Nutritionist's Grocery Haul Must Haves

A Look At a Nutritionist's Grocery Haul Must Haves

Photo of Clara on a hike.

Clara Norfleet RD, LDN, CPT is a registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer whose goal is to help others optimize their health without the overwhelm and obsession (@foodfitnessandfaith on Instagram). Here, she breaks down her weekly grocery haul and tips on how she shops without overindulging.

What does your grocery haul look like each week? 

“My grocery haul week to week looks somewhat the same: I always aim to get 2-3 sources of protein (like eggs, chicken, fresh or canned wild-caught fish, grass-fed ground beef, turkey), some packaged items like milk, nut butters, gluten-free pasta, oats, spices, oils and such; some frozen items like frozen fruit, greens or veggies to have on hand in the freezer; and LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies – either from the local farmers market or the grocery store – usually 1-2 types of fruit and 5-7 types of veggies all across the color spectrum (more colors = more antioxidants!). I also make room for items like dark chocolate, hot tea, coffee and popcorn to have on hand as well.”

How do you keep track of what you’ll need to buy at the grocery store each week?

“I try to keep a running list on my fridge of items as I run out of them (like cooking oils or spices), that way I don’t have to try to remember it when it comes time to make my grocery list. On top of that, I spend a little time at the end of the week planning my meals and snacks for the following week. I will create a list of items I need for all the meals I plan to make, and then compare it to what I already have one hand, so I can then determine what I’ll need to pick up at the store.”

There are many ways to go about this depending on how a person prefers to plan their meals for the week, but I find that for most people, having some type of list is the easiest and most efficient way of keeping track of what they’ll need each week.”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start meal-prepping?

“It may take some time to get in a groove that works for you, but don’t give up! The best piece of advice I can give is to not think there is a “right” way to meal prep. The 'right' way is the way that makes it easiest for you! Some people prefer meal prepping all of their meals, while others prefer just one meal a day. Some do it all at once, while others split it up during a few meal-prepping sessions during the week.”

“If it’s overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, my advice is to pick one meal. Rather than focusing on all 3 meals for every day of the week, try to meal prep for just one meal that you can use each day of the week – that might be a big batch of chili, a large salad mix, big sheet pan of roasted potatoes or crockpot chicken that you can portion out for five lunch meals for the week."

“Another approach would be the plan for five dinner meals for the week, and making enough at dinner to have leftovers for the following day's lunch. Again, there is no right or wrong way to meal prep, and there are many efficient ways to go about it depending on your schedule!”

What is most important to you when you’re thinking about buying a product? (i.e. organic, non-GMO, low calorie)

“When I’m grocery shopping, what is most important to me is that I’m focusing on nutrient-dense foods that will give me the most bang for my buck in terms of nutrition AND price. I aim to purchase high-quality animal meats like pasture-raised chicken, turkey, eggs and pork, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught seafood as these choices tend to be better for the environment and are usually a little more nutrient-dense. I also try to purchase organic produce when possible, but will also buy conventional – any produce is better than none!! When it comes to packaged items, I look for options with the least amount of added sugar, since it’s hiding in a number of packaged products!”

What is the hardest part of maintaining a nutritious diet?

“For many people, one of the hardest parts of maintaining a nutritious diet is finding a way to make it sustainable and realistic in their unique season of life or circumstance. The truth is, there are many ways to go about ensuring you eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, and it might take some time to go through some trial and error to determine what works best in your life. Offering yourself grace and flexibility is HUGE – it’s not realistic to think you will eat perfectly healthy for every meal, for the rest of your life. Allowing yourself that leeway and grace often makes maintaining a nutritious diet more doable and enjoyable!”

What are your tips for buying on a budget?

“These days, it seems like buying healthy foods requires you to dip into your 401K or savings in order to stock your pantry, and that just doesn’t have to be the case! While healthier foods can sometimes be a little more expensive, there are ways to bring down the cost of eating healthy. Some of my favorite tips:

- Prioritize the foods that are most important to you and your health versus those that you can live without if your budget doesn’t stretch that far. For me, that looks like paying more for meats/poultry and organic produce while leaving “frill” purchases like granola and crackers off my list. What I prioritize might look different than what you prioritize.

- Buy in-season produce. Do your wallet a favor and DON’T buy a half pint of blueberries for $6.99 in December. If produce isn’t in season, get your fix and lower your grocery bill by buying the frozen variety. Or, go with the flow and eat what’s in season as those will be cheaper.

- Buy the whole form of a food versus pre-packaged/pre-cut varieties. For example, buy a whole head of broccoli instead of a bag of pre-cut broccoli. Yes it takes more prep time on your end, but if you are wanting to cut your grocery bill down, it’s worth it! This is the case for items like apples, sliced berries and melon, pre-chopped veggies, and pre-packaged nuts/snack mixes/cereals.

- Use coupons and shop specials! Sign up for weekly emails from grocery stores, get a frequent shopper card, search for coupons on company websites, or scour the newspaper ads (is that still a thing??) to find the best deals. Once you have a list of the sales and specials, you can build your grocery list and meal plan around those items. Coupon disclaimer: only use ’em if it’s a product you’ll actually eat!!

- Make a meal plan and grocery list…and stick to it! Before I go grocery shopping for the week, I take stock of what I already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry that I could use. I will then meal plan and shop to “fill in the gaps”, basing meals off of what I have, and what’s on sale/weekly special (as per previous tip). When I go in with a plan and projected budget, I feel more in control and don’t have eyes that bulge out of their sockets when I go to swipe my card to pay.”

Photos of True Lime Watermelon Limeade, True Lime Black Cherry Limeade, and True Lime in circles with orange and pink backgrounds.

How do you keep yourself hydrated all week?

“Water, water, water!! It sounds silly, but I have a specific cup that motivates me to drink more water – something about it makes it easier for me to drink water easily, I can’t explain it! Having some type of glass or bottle like that that can help remind you to drink water, and to make it more fun, can be an easy visual way to remind yourself to stay hydrated.

And, speaking of making hydration more fun, I always keep a packet of True Lime water enhancers in my desk at the office, in my purse, or even in my car! While I don’t mind the taste of plain water, sometimes having some extra flavor is a fun change up!”