Shop like a boss: the best grocery list for athletes by Kylene Bogden

Grocery shopping was once one of the most basic tasks known to man. Fast forward 100 years and our stores have more products, flavours, food companies and additives than ever before.

What once felt like a stroll in the park is now a race through the Amazon. In today’s world, how is an athlete expected to stand his or her 'health ground' with so many options?

Fear, not my friends. Today I am going to show you the best grocery list for athletes. But first, let’s review a few key principles of grocery shopping.

Shop the perimeter

Rule # 1 when grocery shopping: shop the perimeter of the store!!! No matter where you shop, there is a good chance that you will find mostly fresh produce, meat, dairy products along the perimeter of the grocery store. Do not let the aisles call your name! The aisles are where all the beautifully packaged processed foods live, just waiting to lure you to the dark side. Stay strong. Everything you could possibly need to live a nutritious lifestyle resides along the perimeter.

Eat with a purpose

It does not matter if you are the greatest Olympic athlete of all time, or you are currently strapped to a hospital bed suffering from extreme illness; one should ALWAYS eat with a purpose. For example, choose fruits and veggies that are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, pineapple and dark leafy greens. Choose good-quality protein that is more known for its omega-3 content such as salmon or grass-fed beef. Choose whole grains, filled with fibre and minerals instead of refined grains.

Read the list of ingredients before you even glance at the nutrition facts label

Many of us were raised to obsess over grams of protein, fat, sugar, etc. However, we now know that food has the ability to provide premium fuel to our cells and coding to our DNA. As a result, we have to be extra careful when reading a food label. The list of ingredients should be recognisable. I always tell my athletes:

“If you can’t find these ingredients in your grandmother’s kitchen, you probably shouldn’t be putting them into your body!”

Sure, the protein and fibre may be high and sugar low in a certain product, but if that product is comprised entirely of chemicals, you are doing a disservice to your body. The whole point of proper nutrition is completely defeated when we eat 'perfectly balanced’, chemical-laden food products. Sometimes it can be really difficult to find such pure products. Hence why it is no surprise we are seeing more illness and injury than ever in the history of our country.

Choose store-brand items

Looking to save a little cash? If you do decide to venture down the aisles, purchase store-brand items of your favourite foods. More times than not, you will find that these items cost less than the big-name brands of the exact same item. Especially when you are shopping at specialty grocery stores. The only time it would be best to pay more for a big-name brand item is if the quality of ingredients surpasses that of the store-brand product.

Don’t be afraid to buy frozen

Contrary to popular belief, buying frozen fruits and veggies can be more advantageous than buying fresh sometimes.

While there is no way to know for sure, it is often thought that frozen fruits and veggies are picked during their prime and frozen immediately. This allows a great percentage of nutrients to be retained. When it comes to fresh fruit and veggies on the shelves of your grocery store, there is no way of knowing how long the produce sat in a truck, then in the back of the grocery store, and now on the shelf in front of you. And let’s not forget all of the people that like to massage and sniff every piece of produce until they find the perfect match.

Keep a list of core ingredients

Whether your list is electronic or on loose leaf paper, make sure that you always have a grocery ‘core’ of about 10 foods that you know to purchase every time you go to the store.

This is something you will eventually memorise. Not only does this method save time and money, but it helps to ensure that you are eating in a more balanced way. The core list should be a list of foods that a human could live off (healthily) for a week. For example, no human needs chips or candy to survive. However, they certainly do need protein and vegetables. No human needs ice cream and juice, yet long-term health would suffer without good-quality fat and low-glycaemic fruit. Make sense? A common core list might include one form of animal protein and one form of plant protein, nuts, milk of choice, two fruits, two vegetables, one form of good-quality fat and one starch. Ideally, these would be foods that could be combined in a number of ways and still taste great. Here is an ideal example of a core list:

  1. Chicken
  2. Black beans
  3. Brown rice
  4. Avocado
  5. Unsweetened almond milk
  6. Cashews
  7. Blueberries
  8. Cherries
  9. Peppers
  10. Broccoli

Do not grocery shop when hungry

If there was ever a golden rule of grocery shopping, I think this would be it. How many times have you gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach, only to come out with 10 extra items that you did not originally have on your list?! Unfortunately, this can happen to the best of us. Never, ever, ever shop for food on an empty stomach! It is much easier to stick to your goals and buy only what is absolutely necessary on a full stomach.

Don’t forget to rotate

If last month was peanut butter, try almond butter this month. If last week was rice milk, try almond milk this week. Rotating foods choices is one of the best ways to build the human immune system. Food rotation is also critical for decreasing your chances of developing a food intolerance, especially foods that tend to be richer in protein.

Always know before you go

Choose three to five recipes in advance for the week and create your grocery list based on these recipes. Better yet, choose recipes that you can make in bulk and freeze. This strategy will save you a significant amount of time and money in the long run.

Drumroll, please….and now for the best grocery list for athletes.

Looking to have a grocery list that is well-balanced and can be used for years to come? Check out the list below.

Grocery list image

In summary, your health is on your plate. If there is one thing that you can control in this life when it comes to long-term health and performance, it is your nutrition. As a result, it is just as important to grocery shop with your brain as much as you shop with your stomach. Hopefully, our best grocery list for athletes will steer you in the right direction.

Kylene Bogden is a Registered Dietitian and functional sports nutrition expert, based in the United States. She has a special interest and expertise in elimination diets to help improve athletic health and performance.

For more information about her and her very progressive company, FWDfuel Sports Nutrition, click here.