Grocery Shopping 101: Your Guide to Navigating the Grocery Store

Article posted in: Nutrisystem

Your Nutrisystem weight loss plan is more than an easy, reliable way to drop excess pounds. With Nutrisystem, you learn how to eat a healthy diet and maintain your weight for the rest of your life. That starts with nutritious foods you buy on your own and the Flex meals you prepare for yourself. Using our simple guidelines, you will learn how to make smart choices and pick the best ingredients when you go food shopping. Keep reading for our grocery essentials and tips and tricks for navigating each aisle. Then be sure to print out our Grocery Guide to take with you! >

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Frozen Foods

Frozen vegetables

Vegetables & Fruit

According to Harvard Health, frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh and might even contain more vitamins and minerals than “days-old fresh items.”

Keep plenty of frozen non-starchy veggies on hand so you can be sure to get the recommended servings each day. On Nutrisystem, we recommend eating at least four servings of non-starchy vegetables daily. They are unlimited, so feel free to grab some extra! Choose plain varieties and steer clear of frozen vegetables with sauces or glazes that are high in fat or sugar.

Frozen fruit is ideal for using in smoothies or plain, fat-free yogurt—just be sure to avoid packages with added sugar. All fruit (fresh or frozen) will count towards your daily SmartCarbs on Nutrisystem.


The Nutrisystem menu offers you all of the convenience and ease of frozen meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are perfectly portioned for your weight loss meal plan. Even better, we deliver them directly to your door so you don’t even have to leave the house! Frozen meals in the grocery store are likely to be higher in calories, fats and salt—even if they are labeled as “diet” or “light.” If you’re in a pinch and need to grab a fast and easy meal, make sure to read the label carefully to ensure you’re making a smart choice.


Frozen seafood like cod, tilapia and shellfish is a handy source of lean protein. They count as PowerFuels on Nutrisystem. Just be sure to stick with the plain versions—breading or sauces load you up with extra calories that can sabotage your slim down. Frozen seafood is also typically cheaper than fresh, making it a great money-saving alternative.

Learn more about frozen food choices. >

Cooking & Baking

grocery shopping


Your body needs fat to absorb certain nutrients from food. However, not all fats are equally good for you. When you’re cooking and baking, look for monounsaturated oils, such as olive oil, sesame oil and safflower oil, says the American Heart Association. Pass on the saturated fats like butter, shortening or lard. Depending on the serving size you use, you will count oils towards your PowerFuels or daily Extras.


Fiber is especially important when you are trying to lose weight because it helps you feel full for a long time after eating. Instead of standard bleached white flour (which has almost no fiber), get a boost from flour made with whole wheat, oats, coconut or chickpeas. They are considered SmartCarbs on Nutrisystem.


From salad dressings to meat marinades, vinegar adds a punch of flavor without loading on extra calories. That’s why vinegar is considered a Free Food on the Nutrisystem program. Have fun and experiment with the many different flavors, such as red wine, apple cider and malt.

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Sugar, in all of its forms, is high in calories and disruptive to your metabolism. If you need to sweeten a dish, consider using zero-calorie natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit extract or sugar alcohols. You can also use a small amount of honey, agave, coconut sugar or maple syrup. Just be sure to stick to the recommended serving sizes and count these towards your Extras for the day.

Herbs & Spices

You can enhance the flavor of your meals and snacks with generous amounts of seasonings. Oregano, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, garlic powder (not garlic salt) and other herbs and spices are considered Free Foods on the Nutrisystem program. Get creative and experiment with your favorite flavors.

Check out our guide for shopping the baking aisle! >

Canned Foods

grocery shopping


Legumes like kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas are sources of protein and fiber that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Canned beans allow you to shortcut the bean cooking process that can take hours. Be sure to pick low-sodium varieties whenever possible. They are a great fiber-rich SmartCarb that also serves up some satisfying protein.


Canned vegetables are handy when you want to heat up one of your four daily vegetable servings in a hurry. They also tend to be a great value when compared to fresh veggies. Just like beans, make sure to choose products with no or low sodium.


Check the labels on canned fruit and avoid varieties that are packaged with “syrup.” This is an indication of high amounts of sugar and unhealthy calories. Go for products that are packed in 100 percent fruit juice or water.


Vegetable or bean soup can make a convenient hearty lunch in an easy to manage portion. Like other canned products, go for low-sodium varieties.


Canned tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies are handy PowerFuels that you can easily add to any meal. All are high in protein and healthy fats. Just select the varieties with the least amount of added oil and salt.

Learn more about shopping for canned goods. >

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grocery shopping


The dietitians at Nutrisystem recommend that you drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. That can come straight from the tap. However, if you prefer bottled water for convenience or taste, you can choose just about any type that you like. This includes spring, mineral and sparkling waters. Whichever you choose, skip any with added sugar or other sources of extra calories.

 Sports & Energy Drinks

While advertising for sports and energy drinks tout them as valuable aids to fitness and energy, they are often loaded with excess sugar and other undesirable ingredients.


Low-sodium seltzer or club soda are calorie-free alternatives to plain water. However, other types of soda can have as much as 40 grams (or about 8 teaspoons) of added sugar per serving.


Many products labeled as “juice” are essentially sugary fluid with artificial flavors and colors. Check the label to be sure you’re drinking 100-percent fruit juice. Count 100-percent fruit juice toward your SmartCarbs on Nutrisystem.

Choose smart sips with our handy guide! >

Pasta & Rice

pasta and rice


Supermarkets today carry many more options than the old standard noodle. That’s good news for your diet. You won’t notice a difference in taste or texture with whole wheat pasta, which has about 25 percent of your daily fiber needs in a half-cup serving, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For even more fiber and nutrition, try noodles made from chickpeas, lentils and high-protein grains like spelt or buckwheat. They are all considered SmartCarbs on Nutrisystem.

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Skip white rice that has been stripped of its fiber and other nutrients. This process leaves behind only the starchy grain. Brown rice, a SmartCarb, comes with the high-fiber bran and nutrient-rich germ, says Healthline. You may have heard that brown rice takes a lot of time to cook. However, nowadays you can find products that are ready in 20 minutes or less.

Learn more about shopping for pasta and rice. >

Cereal, Bread & Snacks



The best cereals are SmartCarbs that have the highest amount of fiber and the least amount of sugar per serving. When comparing the nutrition labels, be sure to take note of serving size differences. Nutrisystem makes it easy to find a smart cereal, with delicious options like Granola Cereal and NutriFlakes Cereal on the menu. No need to search through the hundreds of varieties at the store!


Look for “100 percent whole grain” on the labels of packaged bread. That means they’ll be higher in fiber and can be counted as a SmartCarb. Pass on bread that lacks fiber and has added sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.


The Nutrisystem menu offers you a wide range of handy snack choices in the ideal portions. However, if you need to grab one while on the go, look for unsalted, dry-roasted nuts, crunchy seasoned chickpeas and whole grain crackers. Check out our Grocery Guide for more ideas.

Shop smarter for cereal, bread and snacks! >




Fat-free dairy milk is the best option. It’s a PowerFuel, loaded with protein but low in calories. If you prefer soy, almond or coconut milk, be sure to choose unsweetened varieties. These will generally count towards your Extras unless they contain added protein.


Plain low-fat Greek yogurt, another satisfying PowerFuel, will fill you up with protein and is the perfect base of a breakfast or snack. Skip the flavored products and add your own fresh or frozen fruit and zero-calorie sweetener. Check non-dairy products (soy, almond, or coconut) to be sure they don’t have added sugar.


Pick low-fat or fat-free options for your PowerFuels, such as part-skim mozzarella and fat-free cottage cheese. Stay away from cheese “products” that are made with unhealthy hydrogenated oils.

Learn more about shopping the dairy aisle. >

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Handy Help


Looking for a comprehensive list of grocery additions for your Nutrisystem program? The Nutrisystem Grocery Guide provides you with a detailed list of PowerFuels, SmartCarbs, Extras, Free Foods and Vegetables. It also tells you the perfect portion sizes for weight loss so you can buy just what you need. Bookmark our handy Grocery Guide here! >