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Healthy Eating

Shopping for Food That's Good for You

Many people say a successful trip to the grocery store starts with a shopping list. Throughout the week, try to keep a list of food and supplies you need. Keeping to a list helps you follow a budget because you will be less likely to buy on impulse. A prepared grocery list (PDF, 111K) will help you choose healthy types of foods.

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When making your shopping list, check your staples. Staples are nice to have around if you can’t go grocery shopping. These include items like the following:

  • Whole grain cereal
  • Flour
  • Cans of low-sodium soup and tuna fish
  • Dried fruit
  • Bags of frozen vegetables or fruit
  • Frozen or bottled 100% juice
  • Powdered dry milk or ultra-pasteurized, shelf-stable milk
  • Pasta or rice
  • Low-sodium sauce in a jar

Make Shopping Easier

A trip to the grocery store can be a chore for anyone, but as you get older, you might have some new reasons for not going. For example, getting around a big food store might be difficult. What can you do?

  • Some stores have motorized carts, which you can use.
  • Ask if there is an employee who can help you reach things or push your cart.
  • If your store has a pharmacy department, you might find a seat there if you get tired.
  • Plan to shop at a time of day when you are rested and the store is not busy so you won’t have to stand in a long checkout line.
  • Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see if there are volunteers in your area who can help.
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Some people think a grocery delivery service is helpful. You’ll want to ask about fees and other charges before deciding if this service would work for you. Many require access to a computer for ordering.

Shopping for healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, might be hard where you live. People who live in rural areas or some city neighborhoods often have trouble finding larger supermarkets. Instead, they have to shop at convenience stores and small neighborhood markets. Sometimes smaller stores have limited selections of fresh foods.

You might try talking to the managers or owners. Let them know that you and others are interested in buying more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, and low-fat milk products.

Here’s a tip

Some grocery stores have special shelf tags or food labels that help you identify healthier choices—for example, high fiber, no added sugar, low in saturated fat, or whole grain. If your grocery store features healthy choices, this can help you can find them quickly when you shop, but always read the Nutrition Facts label to compare products.

Community Supported Agriculture

Try to find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. CSAs are membership or subscription groups that allow you to buy in-season fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers. Each week you receive a variety of the food being harvested at that time. LocalHarvest is one organization that can help you find a CSA in your area. You can go to the LocalHarvest website, or call 1-831-515-5602.

Farmers’ markets or vegetable stands offer fresh fruits and vegetables in season and might cost less than what you find in the grocery store. To find farmers’ markets in your area, check with LocalHarvest, or your local government. Or you can search an online listing of farmers’ markets.

You might also get help from the federal government to pay for vegetables and fruits from farmers’ markets through the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. They provide coupons you can use at farmers’ markets and roadside stands.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information on Shopping for Healthy Foods

Local Harvest


National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs

Eldercare Locator
800-677-1116 (toll-free)

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.