Supermarket Staple #1: Tree Fruits (Apples, Pears)
Why It's a Must Have: White fleshed fruits and veggies (such as apples and pears) have been shown to help reduce heart disease even more than their colored counterparts. Apples are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid with strong anti-inflammatory properties. The pectin found in the skin and the anti-aging polyphenols in apples help reduce artery and cell damage, and their fiber has also been linked with reduction of LDL-cholesterol and body weight. In fact, one Brazilian study published in the journal Nutrition found that women who ate three apples or three pears a day lost significantly more weight than those that ate the same amount of calories, but didn’t consume the fruits.
Budget Bonus: Shop for produce on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when it is more likely to have just arrived, instead of waiting until the weekend. Most markets receive deliveries during the week, and fruits and veggies that have just made it to the store means they be more likely to stay fresher longer (and get eaten, not wasted) at home. And if you can, buy local apples at your farmer’s market in the spring, summer, and fall to cut costs and improve their nutritional value. Local fruits and vegetables are picked and sold immediately, helping them retain their nutrient level.
Supermarket Staple #2: Citrus Fruits (Oranges, Lemons, Limes)
Why It's a Must Have: Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C. One German study found that vitamin C helps reduce stress levels and return blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol to normal levels after a stressful situation – which may help prevent chronic stress and decrease body fat storage in the abdomen. Eating 2-4 servings of fruit (including at least one serving of a citrus fruit) per day to reap their nutritional benefits. And, if weight loss is your goal, you may want to focus on grapefruit -- one 2004 study conducted by the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at Scripps Clinic, found that subjects who ate half a grapefruit before each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds over 12 weeks (some even lost more than 10 pounds), without making any other dietary changes.
Budget Bonus: Skip fresh fruit when it’s out of season (in the US, citrus is typically in season from late fall and through winter) since fruits have to travel further during off-season. In off-season, reach for canned citrus fruit in its own juice or flash frozen citrus.
Supermarket Staple #3: Stone Fruits (Peaches, Plums, Apricots, Cherries, Tangerines)
Why It's a Must Have: This (mostly) sweet group of fruits is a delicious way to eat your vitamins and fiber. Tart cherries in particular, are an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that recent studies have shown offers greater results for gout-related pain reduction than for prescription drugs. They contain an intense amount of the antioxidants; the anthocyanins responsible for their bright red pigment are also good sources of Vitamin A, making them helpers for eye health as well. They also help reduce heart disease risk, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood lipids, and may reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.
Budget Bonus: Stone fruits are summer season fruits, so it’s best to buy them fresh when they are least expensive, and most plentiful locally, during the warmer months (check out the free app Locavore for help finding local, in-season produce). Skip the pricier imports and buy frozen varieties (sans added sugars and syrups) instead when they aren’t in season.
Supermarket Staple #4. Bananas
Why It's a Must Have: Bananas are often mislabeled as a ‘fattening fruit’ but don’t believe that erroneous myth. Not only are these fat-free, 100-calorie fruits easy to eat on the go, but they are a good source of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium – which could help slim you down. “Bananas are a fantastic source of potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure and prevent water retention.
Budget Bonus: Good news – you can skip the organic versions of this fruit without worry. “Bananas are one of the least ‘dirty’ fruits. Save even more money by purchasing bananas that are still slightly green, since they will last longer.
Supermarket Staple #5: Grapes
Why It's a Must Have: Swap out your candy bowl for a bunch of healthy, naturally sweet grapes. This water rich fruit makes a great energy-boosting snack that can also help to reduce inflammation, which may lower your heart disease risk and even reduce arthritis pain. Grapes contain high levels of anthocyanins, flavonoids and resveratrol, all of which aid the heart in the task of pumping blood to the brain and other organs resulting in an energy boost.
Budget Bonus: Save by buying grapes in season (while it depends on the variety, most grapes grown in the US arrive from California, where they are in season from late June to December), and reaching for raisins during off-season. Raisins have all the same great benefits [of grapes] and contain no added sugars.
Supermarket Staple #6: Melons
Why It's a Must Have: Antioxidant rich melon fruits may help promote weight loss. Melons are very rich in vitamin C, which studies have shown helps to prevent stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking. Since stress hormones store more fat, especially in the abdomen, eating foods rich in vitamin C may help to shed unhealthy visceral (belly) fat. And, if you like watermelon, eat up! It may help you reduce your body fat faster. According to one 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, daily supplementation of the amino acid arginine (found in watermelon) helped laboratory mice lose 64% more body fat over three months.
Budget Bonus: Steer clear of the pre-cut containers of melons that can cost up to three times as much and stick with in season melons instead. Not sure how to tell if they’re ripe? Give them a good squeeze – a ripe melon shouldn’t feel like concrete, but shouldn’t be too squishy either. And watermelon? Give it a little knock – a ripe one should sound hollow.
Supermarket Staple #7: Greens (Romaine, Arugula, Iceberg, Cabbage, Collards, Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard)
Why It's a Must Have: Greens contain a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help your body stay healthy. Swiss chard, for example, is a magnesium powerhouse that can help boost your energy level and has been shown to reduce depression. And just one cup of raw collard greens meets half of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C. All leafy greens are must-haves for their low-calorie, nutrient-dense contribution to any meal plan for healthy living.
Budget Bonus: Buy leafy greens fresh in loose bunches as the cut, packaged options cost up to $2-3 more. Frozen greens are acceptable for same nutrition but avoid canned or ‘seasoned’ varieties as they are usually not only more expensive, but high in sodium.
Supermarket Staple #8: Baby Carrots
Why It's a Must Have: These portable, prepped and easy to eat veggies are rich in carotenoids, which are great for eye and heart health. And you can maximize the absorption of their nutrients by eating them with a healthy fat, such as hummus or peanut butter (both also on this grocery list).
Budget Bonus: Something to chew on: while baby carrots may be a bit pricier than regular carrots, you may be more likely to eat them since they don’t have to be prepared before eating. And they are still cheaper (and much better for your health and waistline) than that bag of chips.