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Kids’ Grocery List – How to Buy Healthy Food for Children

Kids’ Grocery List – How to Buy Healthy Food for Children

These days I’m finding it increasingly more important to stock our fridge and cupboards with healthy food options. When the children were babies and toddlers, my husband and I made many, if not all, of the food choices for them. Back then, it was much easier to offer a banana when begging for a cookie wasn’t even a skill they knew yet.

Healthy food

Now at 4 and 9 years old respectively, Owen and Olivia have more say in their meal and snack choices. Coupled with the fact that our family is exponentially busier with activities – school, work, dance, gymnastics, STEM fairs, our new puppy, and on and on – and we find ourselves on many occasions spiraling into making rash and unhealthy food decisions. When you’re running out the door to get to work, it’s sometimes (ahem, most times) easier to give into the whining for a sugary breakfast item than to convince the preschooler to wait and eat a yogurt after preschool drop-off.

Recently, I’ve been rethinking my approach to grocery shopping — how to steer clear of the junk and buy healthy food for my children and family. In general, I like to take a balanced approach. There’s definitely going to still be ice cream on my list, unless you want to see a tired working mom (and dad!) curl up and cry. But I think this approach may be just what I need.

How to Shop for Healthier Foods at the Grocery Store

I wish I could say I was the type of person to make a grocery list and stick to it. That approach doesn’t typically work for me. When I was leading picky eater workshops many “pre-children” years ago, I often suggested to parents to shop the perimeter of the grocery stores – where all the healthier food options live. I never incorporated this advice into my own shopping habits but I think it has merit, especially when kids tag along. If I can fill my cart with the good stuff first, then there is less space, and budget, for the junk.

Healthy Grocery List for Kids and Busy Families

Enter the grocery store and head straight for the…


  • Apples: great for snacks, in salads, as a side with dinner, and so much more
  • Bananas: adds nutrition to cereal, smoothies, pancakes or just as is
  • Grapes: great for grab-n-go, hiking, and picnics
  • Berries: pairs well with yogurt or homemade whipped cream as a healthier dessert
  • Melon: buy pre-cut fresh melons for easy lunch or snack option
  • Clementines: a perfect snack and easy to peel for young kids

And Vegetables

  • Carrots: great as a snack with hummus or roasted with maple syrup for dinner
  • Red pepper: this is a dinner staple – both kids eat it raw
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: can be used in stir-fry’s, in mac-in-cheese, or dipped in dressing for a snack
  • Salad ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, etc.): build-your-own salad is a dinner staple at our house
  • Avocado: Taco Tuesday – enough said!
  • Winter squash: roasted or mashed with maple syrup
  • Sweet potatoes: mashed or baked into fries
  • Greens (spinach, kale, etc.): my kids don’t “do greens” but I do so it stays on my list


After the produce, head straight for the…


  • Chicken: tenders for DIY breaded chicken or breasts for grilling (good as is or on salads)
  • Ground turkey: good in meatballs or in chili/soup
  • Chicken sausages: on salad or as the main protein at dinner
  • Fresh fish


Then, make your way to…

Dairy and Fresh Foods

  • Eggs: hard-boiled for salads, in freezable breakfast sandwiches, scrambled for “breakfast for dinner” nights
  • Cheese: cheese sticks for snacks; sliced cheese to go with crackers and salami for lunchbox; fresh mozzarella balls for dinner, cheddar cheese for everything
  • Yogurt: Greek varieties including squeeze yogurt or single-serving vanilla, which pairs well with granola
  • Hummus and salsa
  • Orange juice & milk


Beeline it to…

Breads and Bakery

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat tortillas: good for wraps, quesadillas, burritos, rolled up with peanut butter and banana, etc.
  • Bakery cookies: Like I said, I like a balanced approach, and I tend to think the freshly made desserts are much better than the ones found in the interior shelves


Next, make your way to…

Frozen Foods

  • Frozen fruits: for smoothies
  • Whole wheat waffles or pancakes: for easy breakfast or lunch
  • Sweet potato fries: sometimes it’s easier just to buy the frozen ones
  • Veggie burgers
  • Don’t forget the … ice cream


Now your cart should be good and filled so it’s time to go to…

Staples and Everything Else

  • Whole-grain pasta, rice, and grains
  • Canned/boxed: tomatoes for pasta sauce, beans for burritos or chili
  • Peanut butter, jelly, spreads and condiments (go for natural, if possible)
  • Cereal: avoid anything that looks like a rainbow of colors
  • Granola
  • Snacks: pretzels, popcorn, wheat crackers (you have all that cheese!), tortilla chips, granola bars, nuts, raisins


Skip the juice, candy and cookie aisle but don’t forget the coffee – everyone pays if mom or dad skips that. How about you – what’s on your family’s healthy food shopping list?


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