Part 1 - A Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating (Creating a Shopping List)

By John-Henry | August 13, 2018

Background

After seeing this meme about myself I realized it might be a good time to make some lifestyle changes. I’ve always been fairly active and of a healthy weight, so I’ve never seen healthy eating as a pressing issue, but in the pursuit of perfection, I think healthy eating is a good goal to aspire to, if only as a challenge.

One thing I noticed is that my biggest barrier is that I don’t know how to cook, or what to buy. In fact I find the whole process of even thinking about cooking extemely stressful! It is not that I can’t follow simple instructions, but rather, when I try to cook that I don’t know the name of a lot of ingredients, I don’t know how to find these unknown ingredients, and I don’t know the name of recipes that I think would be delicious! (And no, I refuse to try Blue Apron). It is this same anxiety of what to do that causes me to make the same mistakes over and over again in regards to eating. I find myself ordering the same few items everytime I go to restaurants and buying the same few items when I go to the grocery store. It is not so much that healthy eating is too difficult, but rather, I find healthy eating to be too unfamiliar.

With this framework in mind, I decided if I am going to start eating healthy, I might as well do it right and get the most for my effort. This is going to be a two part post. This first post will be my (not so scientific) research in finding the right ingredients for a healthy lifestyle to buy, and to create a definiteve shopping list that I can bring with me when I go grocery shopping. I am under the impression, that if I have the right ingredients around the house for long enough, the cooking will eventually take care of itself. My second post, will include the recipes I end up with, and find interesting and simple enough to maintain in my everyday life.

The Research

What to Buy

The most informative thing I was able to find was this wonderful Grub Street article written by Mark Bittman and David Katz. Bittman is a popular food author, whereas Katz is a world expert in nutrition at Yale. In the article, he repeated emphasizes the importance of eating greens, nuts, and legumes, and names drops a lot of foods. These will make the bulk of my list.

The Bittman, Katz article is congruent with this infographic from onemedical which recommends filling half your plate with greens and only about a quarter with meat. Bittman & Katz primarily recommended eating fish and seafood instead of meat, but since I don’t like seafood as much, I will suplement their recommendations with chicken as it’s better for the environment than beefs (and recommended by Leonardo DiCaprio).

One thing that stands out about the Grub Street article is that Bittman & Katz seem absolutely uninterested to dairy. They don’t seem particularly upbeat about yogurt. They don’t seem to encourage milk drinking. They simply recommend 1 hardboiled egg a day for a full healthy serving of cholesterol, yogurt if you need a little protein, and that you avoid full-fat dairy. That’s it. With this in mind I think eggs and yogurt should be an add-on to the list, but not a staple.

The next most informative website I came across was Authority Nutrition, which looks like it is no longer updated. The articles on the website however, are a wonderful resource. Authority Nutrition substantiates the Grub Street article, but also adds some tips that are not inherently obvious like from reading the first article. Tips I picked up are avoid fruit juices and dried fruits, you don’t need to really worry about eating too much fruit, olive oil is a better choice than vegetable oils, and that whole wheat might be bad for you whereas whole grains are probably pretty good (and they are not the same!). They also seem to rave about apples and bananas which wasn’t as clear in the original article.

They offer a few more specifics on which fruits and vegetables to buy, which I also included in the list.

When to Buy

I wasn’t planning on blindly buy all my fruits and vegetables in my cart without knowing when they’re in season and what to look for. The general rule of thumb is to let price guide you. Food gets shipped from further away when it is not in season, thus foods not in season tend to cost more. With that said, the information I used to determine what vegetables are in season comes from here and here. The information I used to determine what fruits are in season comes from here.

When purchasing it is generally recommended to follow your tenses. Is this brocolli dark green like it should be? Do these strawberries smell like strawberries? Are these berries firm? These are the general guidelines for buying fruits, although infomation about what what to look for in vegetables is more scarce. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend checking either of this article about fruit, or this article about vegetables.

With all of this in place, I now present to you:

~*The Ultimate Shopping List*~

Fruits

Bananas (all year)
Oranges (Jan - May)
Stawberries (Mar - Aug)
Red and Purple Grapes (Jun - Nov)
Apples (Jul - Oct)
Pineapple (Mar - Nov)
Watermelon (Jun - Sep)
Peaches

Berries

Avocado (Mar - Sep)
Blue Berries (May - Aug)
Black Berries (May - Aug)
Cranberries (Sep - Dec)

Legumes

Green Peas (Jul - Sep)
Lentils
Chickpeas

Leafy Greens

Kale (Jan - Feb)
Brussel Sprouts (Jan - May)
Swiss Chard (Jan - Oct)
Spinach (Sep - Nov)

Vegetables

Broccoli (Jan - May)
Asparagus (Feb - Jun)
Tomato (Jun - Nov)
Garlic
Ginger
Tofu

Nuts

Walnuts
Almonds
Seeds

Goodies

Green Tea
Dark Chocolate (>60% cocoa)
Coffee
Fish

Next Steps

After a few weeks of following my own prescribed advice, I’ve been eating healthier than I ever have in my life. I don’t feel all too different, but regardless healthy eating has become a source of confidence for me. With the healthy shopping list in hand, my next step is going to be laminating my personal copy, and keep it inside of my reusable shopping bag which I always bring with me. For me, I think this is going to be strong enough of a nudge to keep me purchasing healthier foods for myself. My next step is going to be figuring out what I can use these ingredients to cook in order to make a filling lunch that I can bring to work. I will post an update this post in about 6 months, after suitable experimentation.

Lastly, I think this list was more of an intellectual exercise than anything else. It is true these are all of the foods that I found to be extremely healthy based on information posted online, but I doubt that the other fruits and vegetables should be thought of as lesser just because they didn’t make it into the articles I cited. If for some reason you can’t remember all the foods listed – just buy anything green, you’ll probably end up ok.

You can download the shopping list here.


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