In Categories: Practical Tips

With overstocked aisles for miles and options galore, grocery shopping trips can be a major headache if you head to the store without a plan. If you’re following a low carb or ketogenic lifestyle, check out our curated list of tips (and our grocery shopping lists below!) to make sure every grocery haul is a success.

Top Grocery Shopping Tips

#1. Establish a routine — and stick to it

  • Stock up on essentials in bulk (e.g., olive oil, nuts, heavy cream, eggs) to avoid having to routinely repurchase your go-to items.
  • Target a certain day of the week that works best for your schedule so you always have time set aside time to shop.

#2. Never shop without a grocery list   

  • Map out meals and snacks for the week (or more) before shopping to make sure you leave with everything you need.
  • Commit to sticking to your list so you won’t even bat an eye at that cake on sale.
  • No more aimlessly roaming the aisles: a well thought out list will help you be more efficient.

#3. Avoid shopping on an empty stomach

  • If you shop hungry, you raise your chances of a falling prey to high carb junk (and the consequences of a lapse that follow).

#4. Focus on the perimeter of the store

  • Here you’ll find most of your list items: fresh foods like non-starchy vegetables, berries, eggs, dairy, meat, fish and poultry.
  • Simply skip the inner aisles that are riddled with processed carbs like chips and cookies.
  • Make an exception for the freezer section (frozen veggies are a big money saver!) and when you need to pick up certain canned goods, oils, condiments, and other acceptable items.

#5. Think twice about specialty “low carb” and “sugar-free” products

  • While a ketogenic lifestyle might include occasional low carb specialty products (e.g., sugar-free Jell-O, barbeque sauce or whipped cream), the majority of your grocery bounty should be minimally processed, whole, nourishing foods.
  • When in doubt, scan the nutrition label to make sure a product won’t derail your progress toward your health goals.
  • Make an exception for specialty items worth a couple extra bucks if they will save you significant time and effort (e.g., pre-riced cauliflower).

#6. Take advantage of online shopping

  • Is your schedule slammed this week? Most chain grocery stores ranging from Walmart to Whole Foods now offer curbside pickup or home delivery services — let them do some of the work for you.
  • “Favorite” or curate a saved list on the grocery shopping platform ahead of time to make ordering even more of a sinch.

Key Items to Add to Your Next Grocery List

Produce

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Berries (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry)
  • Beans (green, yellow, wax)
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Greens (mustard, collard, spinach)
  • Kale
  • Lemons and limes
  • Lettuce (Romaine, arugula, spring mix, iceberg, endive, escarole)
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peppers (green, red, orange/yellow)
  • Snow peas
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini/summer squash

Pro tip: Fresh and frozen vegetables are equally healthy, so pick some of these up from the freezer aisle so you’ll always have veggie options on hand.

Meat, Fish and Poultry

  • Bacon*
  • Beef steaks and chops
  • Deli meat*
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Charcuterie and other cured meats (e.g., salami and prosciutto)
  • Chicken (opt for skin on)
  • Fish
  • Ground beef (opt for 12% fat or greater)
  • Lamb
  • Pancetta
  • Pork steaks and chops
  • Sausage
  • Shrimp and shellfish
  • Turkey
  • Wild game (e.g, bison, deer, elk)

*These often contain starchy fillers and/or added sugars. Always scan the nutrition label first to pick the option with the fewest carbs and added mystery ingredients.

Dairy Section

  • Eggs
  • Cheeses (e.g., blue, cheddar, goat, swiss)
  • Cottage cheese (full fat)
  • Cream cheese
  • Greek yogurt (plain, full fat)
  • Half and half
  • Heavy cream
  • Sour cream

Nuts And Seeds

  • Almonds
  • All natural peanut and almond butter*
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts*
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts

*Look for ‘natural’ nut butters with no added sugar and avoid those containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Peanuts have a higher carb content than some other nut options, so proceed with caution when it comes to portion sizes. PS: fun fact, peanuts are not really nuts — they are legumes.

Oils/Cooking Fats, Salad Dressings and Mayonnaise

Opt for dressings and mayonnaise made from oils with higher saturated and monounsaturated fat contents, such as canola, olive, or avocado oil. Avoid those made with soybean, vegetable, corn, or other oils high in polyunsaturated fat content. Be sure to pick out salad dressings with 2 grams of carbohydrates or less per serving, too — it’s shocking how much sugar is snuck into certain vinaigrettes!

Some Favorite Salad Dressings:

  • Cindy’s Kitchen
  • Litehouse
  • Just Dressing
  • Primal Kitchen
  • T. Marzetti Simply Dressed
  • Tessemae’s

Pro Tip: Check out the refrigerated section near the produce section to find some of these brands.

Some Favorite Mayos:

  • Hampton Creek
  • Hellmann’s with canola or olive oil
  • Primal Kitchen with avocado oil
  • Spectrum Organic with canola or olive oil
  • Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise

Oils:

  • Avocado oil
  • Beef tallow
  • Butter
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Olive oil, extra virgin
  • Palm oil
  • Safflower oil, high oleic

Miscellaneous Extras:

  • Almond flour
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Coconut flour
  • Coconut milk
  • Erythritol
  • Low sugar ketchup and BBQ sauce (careful to check the labels!)
  • Parmesan crisps
  • Pork rinds
  • Sucralose (i.e., Splenda)
  • Sugar-free gelatin
  • Xanthan gum
  • Xylitol

Feature Spotlight: Favorite Low Carb Buys from Costco and Trader Joe’s

What are your favorite low carb items from Costco or Trader Joe’s? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Trader Joe’s

  • Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip
  • Chile Lime Chicken Burgers (frozen)
  • Chomps Grass Fed Beef Snack Sticks
  • “Just a Handful of Olives” Pitted Manzanilla Olives
  • Green Goddess Salad Dressing
  • Oven-Baked Cheese Bites
  • Palak Paneer (frozen)
  • Pre-riced cauliflower and broccoli (fresh)
  • Roasted Seaweed Snack (try wasabi if you like spicy!)
  • Shelled hemp hearts
  • Truffle Marcona Almonds
  • Thai Lime & Chili Almonds
  • Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon

Favorite Trader Joe’s Cheeses:

  • 1,000 Day Gouda Cheese
  • Cambozola Triple Cream Soft Ripened Blue Cheese
  • Goat’s Milk Cheese Medallions Marinated in Oil and Herbs
  • Le Délice de Bourgogne
  • Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah
  • Unexpected Cheddar

Costco

  • Almond flour
  • Cello Cheese Whisps (parmesan crisps – delish)
  • Charcuterie party tray packs
  • Chia seeds
  • Coffee
  • Coleman Organic Chicken Meatballs
  • EcoDrink Complete Multivitamin Drink Mix Packets
  • Eggs
  • Kerrygold Grass-fed Butter
  • Kirkland Organic Almond Butter
  • LaCroix sparkling flavored water
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil (big bargain at 50 cents per 1000 Calories!)
  • Riced cauliflower (frozen)
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Teton Uncured Grass-fed Jalapeno & Cheese Bratwursts
  • Salted mixed nuts
  • Smoked salmon
  • Whole milk mozzarella string cheese

19 Comments

  1. I am surprised that you have canola and safflower oil on your list. I have heard these are not good for us.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Here’s Dr. Phinney’s take on canola oil: https://blog.virtahealth.com/canola-oil-keto/

      Reply

    2. For what it’s worth, they specify high oleic safflower oil here which is processed differently so the ratio of PUFA to MUFA is not too far off extra virgin olive oil and WAY better than other safflower oils. I always check the fat profile when I buy it.

      Reply

  2. Michael Matthews August 6, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve been sticking to the diet for three weeks I’ve lost a stone weight feel a bit low in energy, I’m a cyclist and don’t feel up to doing my usual 50 to 60 km during the week. Never mind doing my 89 to 120 at the weekend. I’ve taken up swimming in the meantime going in the sea at least 4 times a week. I’m sleeping too well nearly but I feel stronger as the day goes on. I’m delighted to get this guide as I’m not 100% sure on some options that might be open to me. Thanks Virta

    Reply

  3. Kerry Gold Dubliner Cheese from Costco!

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Yum!

      Reply

  4. I noticed sunflower seeds on the list but not pumpkin seeds. Is there a reason pumpkin seeds should be avoided? Thank you.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Pumpkin seeds are great too, they just tend to be pricier than sunflower seeds. We added them into the post!

      Reply

  5. lorraine boulais August 8, 2018 at 3:56 am

    j’ai besoin de recettes pour diabete 2

    Reply

  6. Good tips. This is part of the answer. We must do everything in our power to combat and mediate the onset and management of this disease. I have found that the eastern internal arts have time-proven wisdom on how to improve my health and energy in naturally effective ways. I feel we all have the potential to be in charge of our own health, and without the negative side-effects.

    Reply

  7. I have a garden full of gorgeous ripe tomatoes, which I love. I’ve heard that I need to avoid them, yet they’re on your grocery list. Can you help me?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      We typically have patients wait a few weeks until they are adapted and then they can eat tomatoes in moderation.

      Reply

  8. What about beans like garbanzo, mung, lentils? Tempeh? Miso?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Beans have too many carbs for most people to remain in ketosis, but tempeh and miso are fine! We have more info on vegetarian options here: https://blog.virtahealth.com/vegan-vegetarian-low-carb-keto/

      Reply

  9. I didn’t see spinach in the vegetable list. Should it be avoided?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Spinach is fine! Just added it into the list.

      Reply

  10. I’m also surprised to see berries and artificial sweetener. Won’t these generate an insulin response going to the Cephalic Response? I would just lose the sweet tooth to avoid a downward spiral.

    I haven’t perused much of the blog yet, but it might be worth mentioning fermented foods and fermenting at home. A larger volume of vegetables could be consumed if the glucose has been turned into lactic acid.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Thank you for the note. If you haven’t read it yet, we recommend checking out https://blog.virtahealth.com/keto-diet-artificial-sweeteners-sugar-substitutes/

      Reply

  11. I still eat an apple and banana most days and lost 45 lbs in 6 months. 6 ft tall and 220 to 175. So sue me.

    Reply

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