Having a healthy weight loss grocery list can help you stick to your diet. Because it’s hard to resist temptation if you have an empty refrigerator.
You want to lose weight and you want it now. Throw everything into the shopping cart and start chomping down, right? No! You don’t need to do that. In fact, there are certain foods that will help aid in healthy weight loss.
Healthy Weight Loss Grocery List
If you start eating fruits and vegetables in addition to what you usually eat, you are adding calories and may gain weight. The key is substitution. Eat fruits and vegetables instead of some other higher-calorie food,” says the CDC.
A healthy grocery list for weight loss needs to have these types of foods, as recommended by the CDC:
Vegetables (particularly foods rich in prebiotics)
Nuts & seeds
Low-fat dairy products
Read on to find specific examples of each of these types of food along with a science-backed explanation of exactly how they support weight loss. And for more on healthy eating, don’t miss 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Flax, Chia, and Hemp Seeds
When you double fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams per day, you may burn up to an additional 92 calories per day, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. An easy way to boost your fiber intake right away? Stock up on seeds. Rich in anti-inflammatory, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and plant protein, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are must-haves in a weight loss diet. Tip: Make sure to grind flaxseeds before eating—your body can’t digest the whole seed, so unless you grind it, you won’t be able to access its benefits.
Beans, beans, they’ll help you lose weight! A meta-analysis of all available clinical trials on the effects of eating pulses showed that adding just 3/4 cup of beans to your diet every day for six weeks can help you lose 0.75 pounds. Some ideas to eat more legumes: Add chickpeas to salads, black beans to quesadillas, peas to pasta, and simmered kidney beans as a side to grilled chicken.
An apple a day will help keep the weight at bay. As apples are high in fiber, low in calories, and rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, it’s no surprise they can promote weight loss. A trial published in the journal Appetite found that when women ate three apples per day for 10 weeks—without changing anything else with their diet—they lost two pounds. Another observational study of over 120,000 participants, which was published in PLoS Medicine, discovered that people who ate apples lost an average of 1.24 pounds per daily serving over a four-year period.
Nuts may be high in calories, but they’re still a potent tool for weight loss when eaten in moderation. A study published in the journal Obesity show that those who consume two or more portions of nuts a week had a 31 percent lower risk of weight gain compared to those who never or rarely ate them. Nuts don’t just prevent weight gain, they also promote weight loss. When 65 overweight or obese individuals supplemented their diet with nuts over the course of 24 weeks, they had a 62% greater reduction in weight and BMI, 50% greater reduction in waist circumference, and 56% greater reduction in fat mass as compared to those who supplemented their diet with healthy complex carbs.
Avocados truly live up to their hype—and we’re not just talking about their ability to make any dish Instagram-worthy. Healthy fats are an essential part of a weight loss diet as they promote satiety and are also essential for helping your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Add half an avocado to your lunch, and a study published in Nutrition Journal found that you can experience a 40% decreased desire to eat for hours afterward. That’s how you feel fuller for longer.
TK Special antioxidants called catechins which are found in high amounts in green tea, especially matcha green tea, are believed to rev up the metabolism and increase your body’s ability to burn fat. One small study found that women who drank matcha grade green tea before brisk walking workouts burned more fat than exercisers who did not drink matcha. Plus, an analysis of 14 studies published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal showed that people who drank a high concentration of green tea lost up to 7.7 pounds more than subjects who did not drink green tea.
Curious about the 12 Side Effects of Eating Oatmeal? We’ll give you a sneak peek: they can help you lose weight. A Nutrients trial had a group of participants consume 100 grams of oats per day. After one year, researchers checked back in with the groups and found that oat-eaters experienced a significant reduction in weight—2 pounds. The researchers note that short- and long-term oat intake also has an effect on controlling hyperglycemia and lowering blood lipids.
Stock your fridge with high-protein yogurts like Greek yogurt or Icelandic yogurt, and you’ll help your body melt away fat. A study in the journal Appetite compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate-, and low-protein yogurts on women. Researchers found that Greek yogurt, with the highest protein content of 12-15 grams per serving, had the greatest effect on squashing appetite.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Forget those bottled salad dressings or canola oil for frying and grab yourself a bottle of olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fats and oleic acid—two fats known to have satiating and anti-inflammatory effects, olive oil has been found to encourage weight loss. In a Journal of Women’s Health study, researchers found that when participants consumed 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day for 8 weeks, they lost more weight than those who followed a lower-fat diet.
Toss that cereal and grab a carton of eggs. Eggs are one of the 10 Best Breakfast Foods That Keep You Full, According to a Dietitian thanks to their high protein content. As we’ve noted, keeping you full for longer can help you lose weight in the long run. A Nutrition Research study found that eating eggs for breakfast can make you feel more full and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day compared to eating a bagel.
Whole Grain Bread
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to cut bread out of your diet if you want to lose weight. In fact, keeping bread—the right bread, that’s rich in fiber and made with whole grains—in your diet can help you lose weight. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that swapping refined grains for whole grains increases calorie loss by reducing calories retained during digestion and speeding up metabolism. Unlike nutrient-devoid refined grains, whole grains are rich in satiating, heart-healthy fiber.
Berries are high in fiber and antioxidants—what we now know is a winning combo for weight loss. One study showed that when people ate a 65-calorie berry snack, they ended up eating less food at their next meal compared to those who ate the same caloric amount from candy. Why not add more berries to your diet with the help of these The 25 Best-Ever Weight Loss Smoothies.
healthy grocery list to lose weight
Healthful, sustainable weight loss isn’t about tedious calorie counting or diet food; it’s about nourishment. Research shows that nutrition knowledge and diet quality are linked to a lower body mass index (BMI). Studies also show that nutritious eating patterns are tied to long-term weight loss maintenance, which is the ultimate goal.
If you’re on a weight loss journey, prioritize the quality of the foods you stock up on each week at the grocery store. Here’s my list of the items to keep on hand, as well as suggestions for how to use these foods to build balanced meals, snacks, and treats.
Aisle-by-aisle grocery list
Food quality, variety, and balance are the keys to exposing your body to a broad spectrum of nutrients and health-protective compounds. A few food groups stand out for weight loss, and at the top of the list is produce. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that an increased intake of fruits and vegetables can counteract a higher BMI and body weight associated with genetics. Produce should compose the majority of what’s in your cart, with a goal of building about seven cups of produce into each day’s meals and snacks. Load up on the following:
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
For some smart produce shortcuts (no peeling or chopping required), check out the frozen aisle. You can find:
- Green beans
The refrigerated section houses a few key food groups that can help support long-term weight loss maintenance, including:
- Eggs or plant-based egg substitute
- Greek yogurt (plant-based or dairy)
- Plant milk
- Vegan pesto
Shelf-stable foods can also be beneficial for your health. For example, one food group you can find in these aisles are whole grains, which can up your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and support weight loss. One study found that whole grain intake was inversely associated with belly fat. Another study showed that substituting refined grains with whole grains increased resting metabolic rate, a measure of calorie burning. Some of the shelf stable items that you should consider adding to your grocery list include:
- Almond butter
- Bagged lentils
- Brown rice
- Canned black beans
- Canned chickpeas
- Canned tuna
- Canned wild salmon
- Dark chocolate
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Herbs and spices
- Maple syrup
- Old-fashioned rolled oats
- Olive tapenade
- Plant protein powder
Mix and match these foods from your grocery list to create a variety of nutrient-rich meals and snacks that promote weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Here are some ideas that use the complete shopping list above:
- Smoothie made with leafy greens, banana, frozen berries, plant protein powder, almond butter, and plant milk
- Zoats made with zucchini, old-fashioned rolled oats, maple syrup, cinnamon, chopped apple, and nuts
- Scramble made with egg, plant-based egg substitute, or chickpeas with veggies, herbs, avocado, and a side of citrus fruit
- Bowl made with greens, cucumber, tomato onion, lentils, quinoa, and seasoned tahini
- Salad made with leafy greens, chickpeas, canned salmon, and vegan pesto
- Salad made with leafy greens tossed with olive tapenade and topped with canned tuna, green beans, and cubed potatoes
- Sliced bell pepper and cucumber with hummus
- Sliced apple with almond butter
- Yogurt with grapes and nuts
- Southwest platter made with sautéed bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, and avocado
- Extra virgin olive oil sautéed broccoli and cauliflower, lentils, and oven-roasted sweet potato
- Extra virgin olive oil-sautéed green beans with oven-roasted herbed chickpeas and potatoes.
- Dark chocolate squares with fresh fruit
- Sautéed frozen berries topped with crumble made from almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and rolled oats
- Frozen banana dipped in melted dark chocolate and chopped nuts
As you select the ingredients for these meals, snacks, and treats, keep in mind that when it comes to fat, type matters. Research shows that monounsaturated- and polyunsaturated-fatty acids consumption have desirable effects on body weight and fat mass. To optimize your fat intake, consider cooking with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, nibbling on nuts or seeds in place of cheese, and opting for plant-based dips like guacamole and tahini over ranch.
There are some things to think about before you get to the store or log on to do your online food shopping. First up, decide how to make your grocery list. When putting future grocery lists together, think through items you’ll need to make complete meals and healthy snacks. A balanced meal should contain five components:
- Veggies: including fresh or frozen options.
- Lean protein: Don’t forget about plant-based options, from lentils to frozen veggie burgers. Eggs and canned salmon and tuna are quick and easy animal-based proteins.
- “Good-for-you” fat: Fats that can be beneficial include extra virgin olive oil, olive tapenade, olive oil-based pesto, avocado, nuts and nut butter, and tahini.
- Whole food carbs: Whole food carbs include fresh or frozen fruit; starchy veggies like potatoes; and whole grains, including oats, brown rice, and quinoa. Pulses, the umbrella term for beans, lentils, and chickpeas, provide both protein and fiber-rich carbs.
- Natural seasonings: Seasonings can include fresh or dried herbs and spices, as well as nutritious condiments, such as balsamic vinegar and stone-ground mustard.
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Build your grocery list around the items you need for each meal, based on sections within the store (like I did with the aisle-by-aisle list above). This method means you’ll return from your trip with everything you need to prepare meals you’ve already thought through. Then it’s just a matter of making the time to cook. Pre-prepping can also help, so all you’ll need to do is plate and re-heat your meal components. A 2021 study in a worksite weight management program found that higher average meal planning frequency was associated with greater weight loss.
Also, when you shop matters. You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach. I agree, based on my own personal experience and stories from my clients. Being hungry makes you more vulnerable to impulse purchases you may bypass when full. A growling tummy can also cause you to feel unfocused and less able to think strategically about what you need. Plan a trip shortly after a meal, when you won’t feel rushed, and bring your list.
Keep this in mind
Successful long-term weight loss involves developing healthy habits you can stick with. Meal planning and shopping are lifestyle changes that require a commitment, but the rewards are well worth the time and energy. Use the lists and meal ideas in this article to get started, then branch out based on your personal preferences and creativity. Apart from weight loss, you’ll likely experience bonus benefits, including more energy, improved digestive health, and even better sleep. Nutrition (not dieting) for the win!
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.