Why You Need a Shopping List to Create Healthy Meals

Heading to the supermarket without a shopping list can be disastrous if you're following a healthy eating plan. Follow our guide and keep your trolley free from the foods that are best left on the shelves.

You may think there's not much to learn about how to go shopping for healthy food. There's no need to write a list, is there?

The only list you use is in your head. You just rock up at the supermarket, grab a trolley and then follow a well-ordered path around the store, browsing the shelves and grabbing what you think you might need for the week's meals as the fancy takes you.

As far as you're concerned, you buy your healthy groceries in a logical and ordered fashion, making sure you cover off every aisle, just in case there's something you might miss from your mental shopping list.

Ask yourself, though, how many times have you returned home with foods that aren't healthy?

There among all the fresh vegetables you bought as a gesture towards a healthy lifestyle is a jar of not-so-healthy strawberry jam, "just in case" you fancy something sweet on toast.

There are those packets of chips "just in case" unexpected visitors call round.

There's that packet of biscuits because, well, you couldn't resist them. And of course you had to buy that two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola.

But hey, you've forgotten to buy any fresh chicken to eat with those vegetables. And what about something healthy for your weekday lunches?

No-one can blame you. After all, it's easy to be seduced by all the marketing ploys food producers use to tempt us towards their treats, and forget the foods that support a healthy lifestyle.

There's one simple tool that can keep you on track to meet your weight loss or fitness goals: yes, it's the simple shopping list.

Don't just take our word for it though. A 2013 study by the University of Monash showed that writing a shopping list and sticking to it will help you lose weight.

The study found that writing a detailed healthy meal plan and following a list helped people avoid impulse purchases and buying foods that would derail them from their weight-loss goals.

Before You Write Your Shopping List

Of course, anyone can write a list but, while it might seem we're stating the obvious, you do need to do something else first.

You need to go through your kitchen cupboards and fridge/freezer to clear out all those unhealthy foods you've been relying on for the past weeks/months/years.

Sure, you look on them as your best friends, but you need to be cruel to be kind. So get rid of anything that's been holding you back.

That includes soft drinks, chips, dips, lollies, desserts, fruit juices (too much concentrated sugar - eat a piece of fruit instead), sugary cereals, jams, chocolate spread...

In fact, all those unhealthy items you turn to for comfort.

Empty out all the packets into your outdoor bin - yes all of them. Empty them out so you can't eat the unwanted food.

Why should you get rid of these foods? Well, you've decided you want to change your lifestyle, and if you come back from the shops with bags full of healthy food, what are you going to reach for late at night, or when you're feeling angry, sad, frustrated?

You've got it - those unhealthy foods you've still got lurking in your cupboards.

Plan Your Healthy Meals

If you've created your own healthy meal plan for the next week, you've already done most of the work.

You then need to transfer all the ingredients for the week's meals onto paper.

To save a truckload of time at the supermarket, create separate categories and then add the items to them as you go through each meal.

Your categories could include the following:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Breads etc
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Dairy
  • Cereals
  • Pasta and rice
  • Spices and herbs
  • Sauces, oils and condiments
  • Tinned foods
  • Tea, coffee and other drinks
  • Miscellaneous items

Of course, you'll need to create other categories that suit you and your family.

If you're super-organised, the next time you go shopping you can even make a note of where the different categories of food are in the supermarket and then write them in the correct order when you create the following week's list.

You'd be in and out in a flash! And what's more, you won't even need to take a trip down the confectionery aisle as you won't have chocolate on your list.

If you haven't created a meal plan you'll want to consider putting a selection of the following items on your list.

These are just some ideas to get you started:

Meat and poultry
Skinless chicken
Kangaroo meat
Lean cuts of lamb, pork etc
Sliced meat for sandwiches

Fish and seafood
Salmon (either packaged or from the deli counter)
Other fish from the deli counter
Fresh or frozen prawns/mixed seafood

Low-Fat Dairy
Low-fat milk
Low-fat yoghurt
Cottage cheese
Low-fat cheese
Low-fat feta cheese

Low-sugar, high-fibre cereal
Whole oats
Mixed raw nuts (to add to oats to create your own muesli)
Or: untoasted, low-fat muesli

Pasta and rice
Brown rice
Whole-wheat pasta

Breads etc
Wholemeal/wholegrain bread
Wholemeal wraps or mountain bread
Wholemeal English muffins
Wholewheat crackers

Fruit and vegetables
Bananas, apples, grapes, mandarins etc - shop seasonally and make the most of the varieties available
Berries (fresh and frozen)
Limes (to add to sparkling water)
Lettuce, rocket, baby spinach etc
A wide variety of richly coloured vegetables: capsicum, carrots, broccoli, green beans, snow peas etc
Sweet potato

Tinned foods
Tuna and salmon
Legumes, such as chick peas and four-bean mix
Sweet corn

Herbs and spices
Fresh coriander, parsley, basil etc
Dried herbs of your choice
A wide variety of dried spices
Fresh mint (to add to sparkling water)

Sauces, oils, condiments etc
Tabasco sauce
Balsamic vinegar
Low-salt soy sauce
Low-salt chicken or vegetable stock
Mustard of your choice
Tomato paste
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil spray
Black pepper

Tea, coffee and other drinks
Herbal teas
Black tea of your choice
Coffee of your choice
Low-calorie hot chocolate sachets
Sparkling water