Slimmer's Healthy Shopping List Essentials
Deciding to eat better is great for your health, weight and mind - but what about the practicalities?
You can arm yourself with all the info you need, get motivated by the benefits you’re going to see …
… but unless you actually change what lives in your fridge, cupboards and freezer, you’ll have a hard time changing what you eat.
Refreshing your shopping list is key, here’s some ideas:
You'll find everything you need for making and eating healthy, balanced, and tasty meals and snacks when counting calories for weight loss... we've even included some simple recipes along the way to help you get going.
As a bonus, we have a downloadable pdf shopping list for you at the end (because we want your journey to be as easy as possible!)
For ease of use you can jump straight to sections below if you want to...
Dairy, Eggs, and Alternatives...
Whether you buy cow's milk products or dairy alternatives, these foods are essential for a range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
If buying cow's milk, go for semi-skimmed or skimmed - swapping from whole milk (20 calories for 30ml) to semi-skimmed milk (15 calories for 30ml) could save you more calories than you think over the course of a week.
- If you have an average of 5 cups of tea or coffee each day it's a saving of 175 calories per week... that's the equivalent of 2.6lbs in a year.
- Going one step further to skimmed milk (10 calories for 30ml) could save you 10 calories per cup. Now that doesn’t sound a lot but over the course of a week that means a saving of 350 calories and 1lb over a 10 week period.
- If you have breakfast cereal in the morning, with an average of 125ml of full-fat milk that adds 83 calories, semi-skimmed adds 60 and skimmed adds just 42.
If you can’t stomach changing straight from full fat to semi-skimmed or skimmed try mixing half and half to ease your way into it.
There are a plethora of milk alternatives for people who are lactose intolerant, vegans, vegetarians or those who are trying to cut down their animal produce. These are some of the mor popular types available:
- Soya (Unsweetened) – 10 calories
- Almond – 10 calories
- Rice – 14 calories
- Coconut – 6 calories
- Hemp – 6 calories
- Oat – 13 calories
- Hazelnut - 9 calories
Most milk alternatives come in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties, and you can get fresh and long-life versions.
They tend to be fortified with calcium, vitamin B12 and others - if dairy is not your thing, then finding the right milk substitute is an essential part of any slimmer's shopping list.
The stronger the flavour of the cheese, the less you need to satisfy the palate. Opting for a more mature cheese generally means you’ll eat less of it.
A low-fat, mature version of your favourite cheese takes it one step further...
Cathedral City Mature Cheese 30g = 125 calories
Cathedral City Light Mature Cheese 30g = 93 calories
Cheese can quickly add up calorie wise - as with any calorie dense food it's important to weigh your portions, not guess. Check out the calories in different types of cheese here.
And if you're looking for non-dairy cheese, most supermarkets now carry a wide range of alternatives - and they tend to be lower calorie (by up to 200 calories per 100g).
Grating cheese rather than slicing it helps to make the cheese go further - tricking your brain into thinking there is more on your plate or in your sandwich!
Full of protein, zinc, iron and vitamins eggs are great for any meal; poached, boiled, scrambled or as an omelette.
Because of the amount of protein they have (around 7g per medium egg), they can help you feel fuller for longer so are perfect to have for breakfast... The old adage of ‘go to work on an egg’ is definitely worth remembering.
Quick, easy and versatile - eggs are an excellent staple to have in the house.
We've got some great tasting, low calorie egg recipes - check them out below:
- Baked Egg Muffins (great to make and store in the fridge for a healthy 'grab and go' breakfast)
- Dippy Eggs with Asparagus
- Bacon and Egg Breakfast (yes you can still have a good old English brekkie!)
- Shakshuka (a little less known meal with eggs as the hero - why not give it a go?)
- Mushroom Omelette (super quick - good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner)
If you don't eat eggs, there are some vegan alternatives available (and it's a growing area)... Tofu can also make a perfect egg alternative breakfast that's suitable for vegans...
Great on their own or added to a big bowl of fruit salad, yogurts can help when you have a craving for something sweet... opt for the lower calorie versions and you’ve got yourself a sweet snack that’s guilt-free.
They also tend to be a good source of protein - whether you choose dairy based yoghurts or go for soy/coconut based alternatives.
Yogurt with a handful of some tasty fruit thrown in, or trickled over your favourite cereal can make a satisfying and healthy breakfast to start your day off right. If you're going to make any additions such as fruit, oats, honey etc. then go for a natural unsweetened yoghurt.
Be careful to check labels - low-fat doesn't necessarily mean low calorie as some may have added sugars (naturally occurring sugars are fine).
You didn't think you'd see cream in this list, did you?!
If what you're cooking calls for cream we'd recommend you use natural yoghurt or sour cream instead, sometimes even low fat cream cheese (especially for creamy pasta dishes)...
However, for a sweet dish where only cream will do, go for a light squirty cream... Anchor Light Aerosol Cream comes in at only 24 calories per 12ml serving (as it's aerated you don't have very much!)
Veg Sticks and Dips
Carrots, cucumber, celery, peppers – they all make fantastic, low-calorie dippers for a handy snack - team them up with a tomato-based dip like Salsa and they’ll fill a hole without busting out of your calorie quota.
If you just can’t say no to creamy dips or houmous, opt for tzatziki or a low-fat hummus and spoon a portion into a bowl instead of eating it straight from the pot.
- Full Fat Houmous, ¼ Pot (75g) = 219 calories
- Low Fat Houmous, ¼ Pot (75g) = 181 calories
- Tzatziki, ¼ Pot (50g) = 38 calories
- Salsa, ¼ Pot (50g) = 18 calories
This sort of snack is a great way to get in more vegetable portions and up your fibre intake - essential for a healthy gut, with a bonus hit of vitamins and minerals.
It can even make a great healthy lunch - full of goodness, easy to put together, and can be taken in a lunchbox to work, on a picnic... anywhere really!
Be adventurous when it comes to salad to keep your interest up... variety is the spice of life after all!
Salad can make a fantastic, nutritious base for many meals or snacks - it's low calorie, filling, and full of good stuff like vitamins and fibre. The essential basics for the fridge are lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions - but you can really use anything; red onion, peppers, celery, sweetcorn, gherkins, chillies, radish... the list goes on.
Have it as a meal on it's own with an addition that's high in protein or good fats, use it in sandwiches, or make it a side to your main meal.
Some ideas for the 'hero' of your salad:
- Crispy Bacon Bits (grilled of course!)
- Boiled Eggs
- Cheese (feta and mozzarella work particularly well, parmesan shavings give a salty edge)
- Toasted Nuts (flaked almonds or crushed cashews are a favourite)
- Marinated Tofu
You can get really creative with salads - using fruit for something a bit zesty, beetroot for a colourful earthy flavour... you can even play with different leaves for different flavours - rocket or spinach are great additions to a salad base.
Try some of our popular salad recipes:
- Easy Greek Salad - 385 cals (a taste of the med... a complete lunch served with a toasted bagel)
- Cheat's Chicken Caesar Salad - 254 cals (super quick and convenient to prepare)
- Prawn and Avocado Salad - 266 cals (tangy and filling, a delicious everyday meal maker)
- Beetroot and Clementine Salad - 386 cals (with blue cheese, for if you're feeling a bit more adventurous)
If time is an issue, make up a large bowl of your basic salad and keep it in the fridge. Then, as and when you want it, you can add to it to make a main meal, side salad, or a snack.
Dressings and Sauces
A great way to dress up your salad or add a bit of tang and flavour to your meals...
Simple balsamic vinegar is a must for any slimmer's shopping list, but you can check out the calories in your favourite dressings using the wlr food database - Try it Free
There are loads of low-calorie versions to choose from, or if you're feeling adventurous you can make your own (it's easier than you think!)
To make an easy dressing for under 50 calories - mix 1 tsp olive oil with 1 tsp vinegar (balsamic or wine), add a dash of lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt and black pepper. For extra flavour add a dash of Dijon or wholegrain mustard.
Sauces can easily bump up your daily calories if you're not careful. Many supermarket bought sauces have quite high sugar, salt and fat content. Try to go for reduced/no added sugar/salt/fat, and make sure you check the calories per serving on the label... particularly of creamy based dressings and sauce such as mayo, salad cream, and creamy dressings (like Caesar).
Serve your dressing or sauce in a small pot or ramekin, measured out... it's easy to underestimate how much you're having, or go for another squeeze or drizzle if you have the bottle on the table.
Lean Meat, Fish, or Alternatives
It's important to try an have some protein with every meal - it helps to fill you up and has a range of other benefits. We need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight (according to the British Heart Foundation), so having a go-to source in the fridge is essential.
Go for lean cuts of meat and remove any visible fat. Be careful about adding too much fat during the cooking process also. Some good staples for the fridge are:
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- Lean Beef Mince
- Lean Steak
Fish is a great source of protein and it's recommended we eat at least 2 servings of oily fish per week. Fresh fish such as salmon and mackerel are good choices.
If you don't eat meat or fish, it's a good idea to keep a stock of your favourite substitute in the fridge, whether that's tofu, soy based meat alternatives, Quorn, or your favourite veggie sausages - having a good protein element you can grab to make a quick meal is a must.
Why not try one of our popular, easy to make recipes:
Fridge Essentials Bonus: Chocolate
Keep some chocolate in the fridge for when only chocolate will do! It'll be easier to take your time eating and savour.
Go for dark chocolate (a couple of squares will satisfy most), or some of your fav low calorie portioned bars - Curly Wurly, Finger of Fudge and Freddo's are all good choices for a little of what you like.
Store Cupboard Essentials
Pasta, Grains and Potatoes
Potatoes are a mainstay of most shopping lists - their flexibility means they can make a tasty meal or side dish and they're a great source of carbohydrates and vitamin C (who knew!). Try to cook and eat with the skins for the best nutritional bang for your buck.
Whether they're baked, mashed, chipped, boiled or roasted, keep the addition of fat to a minimum to keep the calories under control. Try our Skinny Roast Potatoes Recipe.
Don't forget to try different varieties too... boiled new potatoes go well with fish, and are a fabulous alternative to chips when quartered, sprayed with a little oil and roasted in the oven.
Swap things around and maybe try some sweet potato too - baked, mashed or chipped they make a great accompaniment to any dinner.
Pasta is an essential for any slimmer's cupboard - it's so quick to make and you can be as simple or as imaginative as you like - boil up some spaghetti, chuck in a can of chopped tomatoes, add some herbs (maybe even chilli flakes), some cooked chicken or fish and you've got a healthy meal in under 15 minutes!
Whole-wheat versions tend to be more filling, but if that's not your bag then good old spaghetti, and maybe some penne are always useful to have in the cupboard. They have long shelf life and can make a meal out of almost anything.
When serving pasta go for between 75g and 100g dry pasta per person. Pasta also contains surprisingly more protein than you might think - with the average penne having around 12g protein per 100g.
Some quick and easy pasta dinners to try:
If pasta is really your thing, we've got plenty more specially selected pasta recipes to try.
Rice is a more obvious store cupboard staple - as with pasta it has a long shelf life and is versatile enough to make a meal out of anything. It can be difficult to know how to or how much to cook, but as a general rule 50g of dry rice per person works.
There are some great packet rice available now which are convenient and really quick to cook in the microwave - with the added bonus that they're portion controlled making things even easier.
Stir fry your favourite protein with some chopped veg, add the seasoning of your choice (fajita seasoning works well), add a little stock or water and serve with rice... another super easy, super quick meal in minutes!
As well as rice there are a few other grains it can be useful to keep a stock of... they don't tend to go off and can be used in a variety of salads, soups, stews, and one pot dinners such as curries and casseroles...
- Cous Cous and Quinoa
- Pearl Barley
When it comes to the good ol' loaf of bread try to go for wholegrain versions - we tend not to get enough fibre in our siet which is important for gut health, and a wholemeal/wholegrain bread will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
It's also a good idea to have some wholegrain breakfast cereals such as oats, wheat biscuits, bran flakes, or muesli for when you're in a rush for breakfast.
Be careful of breakfast cereals with added sugars, and make sure you weigh your portions - it's really easy to pour more from the box than you'd think!
You can find out the calories in your favourite cereals here.
Not only good for breakfast, coupled with a handful of your favourite berries and some yoghurt, wholegrain cereals can make a tasty, low calorie snack or supper too!
Even when you’re trying to lose weight, oil plays an important, tasty part in a good, balanced diet – as long as it’s the right sort and in the right quantities. For example, a nice French vinaigrette dressing can pep up your salad without breaking the calorie bank. And trying to create some delicious roasted Mediterranean veg just wouldn't be the same without a dash of your favourite cooking oil.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 127 calories
- Sunflower Oil – 130 calories
- Rapeseed – 129 calories
- Groundnut – 124 calories
- Corn – 62 calories
- Grapeseed – 130 calories
- Coconut – 135 calories
- Sesame – 134 calories
- Avocado – 120 calories
Most of these cooking oils are also available as spray oils (at just 1 cal a spray) which can really help you cut down on the amount of oil you use when you’re cooking.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are a really useful way to add flavour to pretty much all dishes - whether it's something quick and easy like a grilled chicken fillet with veg or salad, or something a bit more involved like a stew.
You can even use them in salads tyo give a bit of a kick, and breakfasts and desserts can be lifted with a little sprinkle of something...
Slimmer's Store Cupboard Essential Spices and Herbs:
- Oregano (great for flavouring pasta, meat, fish or meat substitutes to give an Italian/Mediterranean taste)
- Paprika (brings a little heat lift without being spicy, works well with white meat/fish/substitutes, and an essential in Mexican and South American flavours)
- Turmeric (a natural for curries, or curried soups or stews - warmth without the mouth burn)
- Chilli Powder (use in curries, chilli's or as part of a rub when cooking for a good tingly kick)
- Chilli Flakes (these are great to run through stir fry's or add to pasta dishes if you want a bit of heat)
- Cumin (use to compliment turmeric and chilli powder in curries, or add to any dish that has a Mexican/South American/African slant)
- Parsley (great for British and Northern European dishes, this is also widely used in Italian cookery)
- Rosemary (another herb that tends to be better used in British dishes, it's also a good addition to roasted potatoes and meats)
- Thyme (as above, use when cooking stews and casseroles, or add to roasting potatoes and meats)
- Mint (mint is a really versatile herb - it can be used for sweet or savoury... add to fruit, ice cream, yoghurt for a dip, peas as a side dish...)
- Cinnamon (lovely sprinkled on yoghurt, breakfast cereal, fruit, ice cream...)
- Lazy Style Garlic (none of us can always be 'top chef' in the kitchen... our time is too precious! Prepared, easy to use garlic is a really handy thing to have - whatever your preferred cuisine)
Store Cupboard Snacks
Nuts and Seeds
A portion of nuts or seeds makes a tasty mid-afternoon packed with protein to keep you going till dinnertime. Take a look at the calories and protein in 30g servings:
- Plain cashews - 4.7g protein and 175 calories
- Walnuts - 4.4g of protein and 206 calories
- Almonds - 7g of protein and 186 calories
- Sunflower seeds - 7g of protein and 176 calories
- Pumpkin seeds - 8.4g of protein and 171 calories
Yep, you can still have a little of what you fancy! A mini pack of Propercorn Sweet Popcorn is just 65 calories! That should help with the odd sugar craving.
Microwave popcorn is also a useful addition to your store cupboard, it can satisfy either a sweet or savoury fancy, and has a long shelf life... you get a lot of popcorn for not a lot of calories - it's a great slimmer's snack.
Rice Cakes and Corn Snacks
If you’re hankering after a packet of crisps, swap your normal bag for a rice or corn-based snack and you could save around 100 calories...
- Walkers Ready Salted = 170.9 calories
- Quavers = 106.8 calories
- Skips = 92.3 calories
- Cheese Snack-A-Jacks = 92 calories
(based on a standard sized bag)
Some other great store cupboard snacks for your shopping list:
- Youghurt/Chocolate Covered Raisins
- Dried Cranberries
- Bombay Mix
With snacks, weigh your portion and put the rest back in the cupboard - you'll be less likely to mindlessly eat more than you want to
Seafood is a good source of dietary protein, a variety of vitamins and minerals and is generally low-calorie. Tinned tuna works well but watch what is is canned in - tuna canned in spring water has the lowest calories at 108 calories for 100g and 25g of protein but, canned in sunflower oil, for example, increases the calorie count to 188.
Tuna is a useful staple to have in the cupboard, along with canned salmon or mackerel - you can easily make a meal by topping a jacket potato with it, adding it into a salad or into some cooked pasta.
Chopped tomatoes are a great staple to tuck away into your store cupboard. At only 88 calories for a whole tin, they make a great base for a pasta sauce or for a homemade pizza topping.
If pizza is on the menu, try making your own tomato-based sauce for the topping. That way you’ll know exactly what’s in it and you’ll be able to adjust the seasoning to your taste.
Soup is a great, low-calorie filling meal and, if it’s a chunky vegetable one, it could help towards your 5-a-day. A warm comforting meal on a cold day, there are loads of low-calorie tinned versions on the shelves.
Keeping a stock of some canned vegetables you can heat through quickly as a side to a meal is a really good idea - whether it's peas, sweetcorn, carrots, or a mixed vegetable can...
You can add them as a side to a ready meal if you're in a hurry, or to a previously batch cooked meal that you're heating up... You can use them in salads and soups, or even throw them in with pasta or cous cous.
If you're shopping and cooking mainly for yourself canned veg is a must - again, the long shelf life means you don't have to worry about food waste and they're there whenever you need them.
Fruit in any form helps towards your 5-a-day and the varieties on the shelves these days means you shouldn’t get bored. Easy to use and a great snack, don’t overlook the good old tinned fruit salad.
Take notice of whether the tinned fruit you're buying is in juice or syrup - it can make a big difference to the calorie count!
Tinned Fruit in Syrup 145g = 127.6 calories
Tinned Fruit in Juice 145g = 52.2 calories
Our Calories in Fruit calorie counter can help you find out how many cals your favourite fruit snack has.
Canned fruit doesn't only make a great fruit salad, you can have it with a low calorie ice cream for a sumptuous dessert, or even on it's own with a bit of light squirty cream.
Beans are a brilliant source of protein and fibre, and useful to have a few cans of in the cupboard, let's take a closer look at some options...
- Black Beans: At 132 calories for 100g, they’re one of the lowest-calorie beans you can eat. Better yet, they’re also loaded with protein (8.8g per 100g) and fibre (8.7g per 100g). A winning weight loss combo that can help stave off overeating. Take a look at this delicious recipe for Black Bean Soup 17.2g of protein per portion!.
- Kidney Beans: These beans are another good source of plant-based protein. 100g are just 95.5 calories with 7.4g protein. No self-respecting chili should be without them!
- Borlotti Beans: These beans are an excellent source of minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium, as well as packing a protein punch... 103 calories for 100g and 7.6g protein.
- Good old Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce: Beans on toast makes a super quick lunch and helps you get your fibre and your protein (especially if you use wholegrain bread)... 100g 79.5 cals and 4.7g protein
If you want to try cooking with more beans, why not check out our Mixed Bean Chilli Recipe?
Although not a 'cupboard' essential as such, having fresh fruit to hand can be really useful when trying to limit your calorie intake. Having a bowl of fruit somewhere that can be easily seen and is visually appealing means you might be more likely to reach for fruit as a snack than go rooting through cupboards for something less healthy.
Fruit as a snack is a really good way to up your daily '5-a-Day' portions, it contains loads of vitamins and minerals, and of course fibre.
Try to buy in season when fruits are at their best - they'll taste delicious and satisfy a snacky 'need something sweet' feeling without the calories of processed, sweet snacks.
If you're buying bananas, try to keep them slightly away from the rest of the fruit bowl - they release a gas that causes rapid ripening of other fruit (which means it's more likely to go bad faster).
You can take a look at the calories in your favourite fruits here.
A great idea if you’re in a hurry. Keeping a couple of ready meals in the freezer for those days when the world throws the unexpected at you or you can’t be bothered to cook from scratch, will stop you from reaching for the takeaway menu.
Most supermarkets do a healthy version of the usual suspects like Lasagne, Bolognese, Hot Pot etc. and the range just keeps getting bigger - you can now get dishes from around the world, as well as vegan ready meals.
Adding some salad from the fridge, a can of vegetables (such as sweetcorn or peas), or a microwave steam bag of veg (see below) helps to make sure you're getting a balanced meal and will keep you feeling satisfied.
Or you could give Batch Cooking a try and stock your freezer with your own 'ready meals'.
Steamed Veg Packs and Frozen Vegetables
Really handy to keep these sorts of things in the freezer for when you run out of fresh stuff. We all know that piling your plate with veggies is a definite healthy habit and the frozen versions are a speedy solution as they can all be cooked in the microwave!
Individual portioned mixed vegetable steam bags are really handy - great for when you're eating a ready meal or some leftovers.
Peas, sweetcorn, cauliflower - all the basics are available so make sure you keep one or two of your favourites in your freezer.
Frozen Berries and Fruit Mixes
Great for throwing in with some yoghurt, adding to your wholegrain breakfast cereal, or putting into a smoothie, frozen fruit is a perfect way to make sure you're getting a range of fruits and veg without having to worry about best before dates (particularly with berries).
Portion and freeze any leftover fresh fruit just before it goes bad - much better than throwing it in the bin!
Chicken & Fish Fillets, or Alternative Proteins
These are just so versatile. Having a stock of a few chicken, turkey, fish or meat substitute fillets in the freezer can stop you reaching for the takeaway menu when you've not planned what to cook.
For the meat - Take them out of the freezer in the morning and by dinner time you have the basis for pasta, salads, stews, omelettes, stir fries and more.
Most meat substitutes can be cooked directly from frozen, but make sure yuou check the individual packaging.
When grilling your chicken/turkey/substitute, season with your favourite herbs and spices and then wrap in foil to stop the them drying out while cooking
Pies, strudels and puddings are high in calories but that’s no reason to miss out on dessert all the time. With the huge range of low-calorie ice cream/frozen yoghurt, frozen desserts and ice cream sticks available you can still indulge. You could even have one of the kids’ favourites - low-calorie ice cream and reduced sugar jelly! A little taste of sweet heaven after dinner.
Couple with some berries or chopped fruit and a little light squirty cream for a dessert that won't break the calorie bank.
Most fruit based ice lollies are also relatively low calorie and are good to have in the freezer through the summer for when you want something sweet.
So, armed with all that knowledge, go and hit the shops to stock up on your essentials. With these hints and tips your weight loss goal is nearer than you think.
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