This Weight Loss Grocery List is Dietitian-Approved
Weight loss is a personal journey, but like many things in life, being able to make informed decisions can lead to desirable results, and the same is true when shopping for food. Your weight loss journey begins in the aisles of the grocery store — not just the outer aisles where your fruits and veggies are. The middle aisle can also have nutritious options, especially legumes and whole grains.
To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn, although weight loss will occur as you burn fewer calories, electronicEating nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and lean protein is key to sustainable weight loss and improved overall health. The best diet for you is the one you can stick to long term. Stocking your fridge and pantry with nutrient-dense foods and having quick, easy, and healthy ingredients on hand can help you avoid empty calories.
Not all calories are created, and research shows that the quality of the food we eat and a diet low in refined flour and sugar is more important than the exact number of calories consumed. A diet high in processed foods may lead to overeating, which promotes weight gain.
More from Good Housekeeping
Here's a list of foods we recommend filling your shopping cart.
Editor's note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex topics — Before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration of the cultural hazards of eating.
Fruits and vegetables are some of the top foods associated with weight loss and weight maintenance because they are low in calories and high in fiber. This means you can eat a lot, and the fiber they contain helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Aim to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. According to research, consuming more of these foods has been linked to improved long-term health and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Frozen fruits and vegetables may contain more nutrients than fresh foods because they are usually flash-frozen immediately after harvest. Keep frozen fruit in the freezer for a quick smoothie or add to yogurt. Frozen vegetables add flavor to any omelet and can be used in soups and stir-fries. Add some frozen spinach to your smoothie. Avoid preparing frozen meals that are high in sodium and sugar.
- Cauliflower Fried Rice
- mixed vegetables
- Sweet Potato Chunks
You can find many lean protein options in the refrigerated section. Yogurt, for example, is versatile, quick and easy, but often has a lot of added sugar. We recommend choosing nonfat or low-fat Greek and/or skyr yogurts, which have more protein per serving than regular varieties. Plain or unsweetened tastes best.
If you prefer plant-based yogurt and milk, remember that they can be high in fat and sugar and low in protein, so be sure to read labels. Limit sugar to 8 grams per serving (the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar) or less.
- eggs (or egg substitute)
- lean meat: fish, poultry, turkey
- Low-fat or skim cheese and cottage cheese
- Low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt or yogurt
- dairy alternatives to milk and yogurt
- soybeans: tofu, tempeh
Pantry items are great for storage due to their long shelf life. They make a quick and easy meal, but sometimes they can be high in sodium, such as canned soups and vegetables. Just be sure to read labels and look for “no added sodium” or “low sodium” options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day, which is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon.
Consider swapping refined grains for whole grains that contain more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For cereal, pasta and wraps, look for products that have 3 grams or more of fiber per serving and have a whole grain ingredient as the first ingredient, such as 100% whole wheat or quinoa. Watch out for added sugars and look for options without them.
- beans: black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils
- Broth and Stock
- canned fish: Tuna, wild salmon, sardines
- Canned products: Green Beans, Jackfruit, Tomatoes
- coconut aminos
- Low Carb Noodles: Palmini, Spaghetti Squash
- nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia seeds, flax, hemp, sunflower seeds
- oil and vinegar: Apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar
- salsa dancing
- soda water
- Herbs and Spices: Basil, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, turmeric, red pepper flakes, etc.
- whole grain cereal
- whole grains: Oats, quinoa, wild rice
Now that you have your groceries, you need to know what to do with them. Here are some of our healthy meal and snack suggestions featuring items from the grocery list above.
- Yogurt parfait layered with berries, pomegranate arils, chia seeds, nuts and seeds and topped with cinnamon or citrus zest
- Scrambled eggs or an omelet with spinach, peppers, and low-fat cheese.
- Chia Pudding Made with Nut Milk, Protein Powder, and Berries
- Smoothies made with protein powder or low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen spinach, frozen berries, cinnamon, nut milks, and chia seeds
- Salad with lettuce, carrots, artichokes, tomatoes and olives topped with frozen/fresh/canned fish or chicken
- Low-Fat Protein Cauliflower Rice Bowl (Chicken, Fish, or Beans), Sauteed Vegetables, and Sliced Avocado
- Whole Wheat Tortilla Wrapped with Lettuce, Tomatoes, Turkey (or Tempeh), Low Fat Cheese and Mustard
- Apples with Nut Butter
- Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt or yogurt parfait with berries, cinnamon and lemon zest
- Hummus and Vegetables
- Olive or Artichoke Individual Size Snack Packets
- Burrito style bowl with cauliflower rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, chicken or turkey ground or tempeh, low-fat Greek yogurt, and shredded low-fat cheese
- Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash or Zoo
- A one-pan dinner with chicken, chickpeas, peppers, and harissa.
- Date Stuffed Nut Butter
- 70% dark chocolate
- Fresh Pineapple Chunks with Cashews
- Yogurt Bark
Weight Loss Shopping Tips
✔️ Never shop hungry: This can lead to impulse buying. Go to the store with a plan and a checklist, and choose nutritious, whole foods over processed foods that are high in refined sugar and sodium.
✔️ Drink Smarter: Replacing sugary sodas and fruit juices with water and/or low-calorie flavored sodas may be the first step for many people trying to lose weight. For some people, this exchange alone can eliminate hundreds of calories per day.
✔️ To prepare meals that are simple and mindful: Meals don't need to be complicated. Choose lean protein (ie, chicken, turkey, fish, beans), vegetables, whole grains (ie, quinoa, wild rice), and healthy fats (ie, sliced avocado, a little olive oil) for your meals. Instead of eating in front of the TV, eat at the table with minimal distractions so you can enjoy every bite. Research suggests that mindful eating may be an effective tool for weight management.
✔️ Meal Prep: Research shows that planning meals ahead of time can help with weight loss and weight management. Prepping your menu ahead of time can help create balanced meals, add variety to your diet, and even help with portion control if the meals are individually wrapped. It can also help reduce waste.
✔️ Stay social: As with all things, having a strong support system will help keep you on track. Join an online forum or do it with friends or family.
✔️ Start moving: Go for a walk after dinner or lunch, or whenever your schedule allows, and aim for the “150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity” recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Bottom line: The secret to losing weight is no secret. It all comes down to eating fewer calories than you burn, and doing it in a way that improves your health and energy levels. A weight loss strategy that may work for one person may not work for another. But eating less sugar and refined grains is a good start.
Be strategic with your grocery haul, fill your cart with whole foods — fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and more — and hit the ground running. If it helps you, keep a journal and try to identify patterns that may be holding you back from success or join a support group to provide accountability. Explore what works best for you. If you want to order food, check out our best meal delivery services for weight loss. You can also find inspiration in our 8-week guide to healthy habits.
Amy (s/he) is a Registered Dietitian at the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, responsible for content and product testing related to nutrition and health. She holds a BA in journalism from Miami University in Ohio and a master's degree in clinical nutrition from New York University.Before good housekeeping, she worked as a heart transplant nutritionist at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She has authored many chapters in clinical nutrition textbooks and has worked in PR and marketing for food company start-ups.