How to Pick the Healthiest Foods at the Grocery Store

Grocery aisle

We know eating right is important, but trying to shop for healthy food options can be VERY overwhelming. So many options, confusing labels, fancy packages, and limited time can make the grocery store an miserable experience. Fear not! We have guidelines to help make the right decision. 

Dietitians Share Their Secret

Intermountain Healthcare and Associated Foods have come together to create a map and food label to help you find the right food options for general eating or items specific to your dietary needs.  

Dietitians determine preferred foods on a simple formula encompassing 51 food categories, each with their own unique criteria. Maybe that’s not so simple. But, you can use some simple math while shopping to find the healthiest food options. Or, you can look for the “Dietitian Preferred” tags at your local Dan’s, Dick’s, Fresh Market, Honey Bee, Lin’s, or Macey’s grocery stores and let a dietitian do the work for you.

Here are some easy guidelines to follow:

  • Bread + 100% whole grain – sugar = dietitian preferred
  • Peanut butter ≤ 3 g sugar per serving = healthier option
  • Fresh produce = eat it, all of it

Tip for Selecting Common Foods

  • Bread – The first thing to find is a package that claims 100% whole grain. Once you find that, flip the loaf over to the nutritional information and confirm there is more fiber than sugar. That's a winner! 
  • Cereal – The emphasis is on whole grains with minimal added sugar. That means skipping over the boxes that generally have cartoon characters on them. The healthiest options will have more fiber than sugar.
  • Vegetables, canned and frozen –  Canned veggies can be a sneaky place for sodium to hide. Try to keep sodium to less than 240mg and fat to less than 2g per serving.
  • Juice – Look for 100% fruit and vegetable juices with less than 360mg of sodium per serving and no added sugar. Fresh, not from concentrate, are also often healthier, more flavorful options.
  • Beans, canned – Limit the sodium per serving to 240mg for unflavored and 360mg for flavored. Fiber should also be greater than the sugar.
  • Yogurt – Watch the added sugar. If sugar is less than 2x the protein, it’s a good, lower sugar option.
  • Meats – Look for lean options with total fat less than 10g and saturated fat less than 4.5g per serving. Sodium should also be limited to 360mg per serving or 480mg for deli meats.
  • Nuts – In each serving, keep sodium to less than 140mg and limit sugar to 1g for whole nuts and nut mixes or 3g for nut butters.
  • Snacks – Find an option with at least 10% of your daily value of fiber or vitamins or minerals per serving. Sodium should be less than 240mg and added sugar less than 3g. Single serving packs are a smart choice to help with portion control.
  • Ready to eat meals – Find options with mostly whole food ingredients. Look for nutritional balance by ensuring there are at least 10g of protein and calories from fat are less than 35% of total calories. Finally, limit sodium to 600mg and added sugars to 10g per serving.