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Is Your Grocery Cart Holding You Back?

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Is Your Grocery Cart Holding You Back?

Learn how your choices at the grocery store at certain times of the year can make a big difference!

It’s February and time to evaluate your progress with your New Year’s Resolutions! You initially did your research about how to start making healthier meals for your family, you’ve experimented with new dishes, and you’ve made room in the fridge for yet another grocery store run.

But wait! Before you continue this journey, there’s something else you should consider. Even if you purchase more healthy food, you may not be paying attention to and decreasing the number of unhealthy foods you are buying. This can become a roadblock to reaching your goals. This phenomenon not only occurs in January but in February and March too!

What are the biggest roadblocks to healthy shopping?

What types of roadblocks are we talking about when we are adding junk food to the cart along with healthy foods? Think—more money spent, more calories eaten, and more pounds put on. Probably not part of your new year plan! People typically spend more money on food between Thanksgiving and New Years than they do from July to Thanksgiving and even more from New Years to March. This is the time when most people probably want to spend less! As you can imagine, that equates to more calories eaten per week, and makes it a much more difficult task to reach new year’s resolutions!

The good news is, there are small changes you can make that can help you avoid these hits to your wallet and to help the whole family stay on the right path toward achieving your New Year’s resolutions.

“Sometimes” Foods

These foods should be thought of as “sometimes” foods, not items you buy every week on your grocery run. Making small decisions to replace them with healthier items makes a big difference!

  • Cookies
  • Ice Cream
  • Chips
  • Fried foods- French fries, fried chicken/fish, frozen chicken tenders or tater tots
  • White/refined grains- white bread, white rice, breakfast pastries
  • Fruit Juices or soda
  • Highly processed items- if the package lists more than ten ingredients, consider putting it back on the shelf!

Foods You Can Always Focus On

These foods should be star players in your shopping cart and your plate. They might require a little more preparation, so we’ve provided simple recipe ideas to make it easier.


Put ½ cup oats in a bowl with ½ cup water, heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, then toss in your favorite berries, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon.

Whole Grains

Brown rice, quinoa, whole grain/whole wheat bread. Make a brown rice bowl with baked salmon, broccoli, shredded carrots, and soy sauce.

Low-Fat Dairy

Low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, and other dairy products. Make a smoothie with Greek yogurt, a frozen ripe bananas, and strawberries.


Whole vegetables – kale, spinach, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, celery, etc. Roast them. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, cut your favorite vegetables into similarly sized pieces, and drizzle them with olive oil and a pinch of salt and ground pepper. Baking time varies depending on your veggie choice!

Whole fruit

Apples, pears, bananas, oranges, mangos, etc. Slice bananas into coins, and put a dollop of peanut butter and a couple of dark chocolate chips between two slices. Put them in the fridge for when you’re craving something sweet.

Rotisserie chicken

This will save you tons of time in the kitchen, and the extra flavor will be a hit with the kids! Add it to salads, soup, rice bowls, or even your child’s favorite pasta.


Beans – kidney, black, pinto, cannellini. Make a chili, or toss them into a salad for some added fiber.


Nuts in the form of nut butters and whole nuts- almond, walnut, peanut, pistachio. Nuts can pretty much go on any dish. Add them to your Greek yogurt, oatmeal, salads, or pair them with a piece of whole fruit for an on-the-go snack!


Sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and flax. Toss seeds into your smoothies, or sprinkle on top of yogurt. Sunbutter—made from sunflower seeds—is a great peanut butter substitute for those with nut allergies!

How to Find Balance

While it’s important to pay closer attention to these “unhealthier” foods, allow some room for a treat every once in a while. We’re all human, and staying on track with our goals sometimes might mean indulging every now and again to make sure we don’t feel deprived. Over time, you will likely find that you find a lot more pleasure in the healthier choices than your past go-to purchases because of how they make you feel throughout your day. Plus, your tastes will change over time as you start to choose more whole foods.

You probably did some research and made a plan before the start of the new year to prepare for your new lifestyle change. Don’t stray from that too much now that “go-time” has arrived. Always searching for new recipes and trying new foods will keep your fire alive, and will keep your mind, body, and family happy.

Your awareness and attempt at balance will pay off at the end of the day. Keep your eye on the prize—or in this case, on your choices at the grocery store—and have FUN doing it!

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About the Author

Picture of Claire Wood, MS, RDN

Claire Wood, MS, RDN

Claire’s appreciation for food and the impact nutrition has on well-being blossomed from her experience as a Division I college soccer athlete. She studied nutrition and exercise at Teachers College, Columbia University and is passionate about helping others find an individualized, sustainable, and healthy balance with food and activity. She founded Nutrigility, a wellness brand focused on nutrition, exercise, and balanced living. Claire serves as a consultant dietitian and guest speaker at Nutrigility. Check out her Instagram account @nutrigility for additional quick, simple nutrition, exercise, and wellness tips!

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