Dietitians and food scientists reveal the essential items in their supermarket trolleys, as well as the products they actively avoid.
1. Grainy or sourdough bread
Bread is a frequently demonised pantry staple, but experts say it’s just about buying the right type.
“Two slices of grainy bread (the pick of the bunch) provides about 30 grams of long-sustaining carbohydrates, four grams of fibre and a good whack of vitamins and minerals,” says dietitian Joel Feren, from The Nutrition Guy and spokesman for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Paediatric dietitian Miriam Raleigh recommends switching bread varieties every supermarket trip – sometimes spelt, sometimes rye, sometimes multigrain – to expose your gut to a range of different fibres, which keeps your digestive system healthy.
2. Red capsicum
Green seasonal vegetables and red capsicum are an obvious supermarket staple for boosting any meal’s nutritional value. “[Red capsicum] is a great source of vitamin C, fibre; [it] helps to lower cholesterol and improves the feeling of fullness to reduce overeating,” Raleigh says.
Stocking up on fresh fruit is another supermarket no-brainer. But Raleigh nominates bananas, in particular, as one of the most energy-dense fruits available, and a good source of vitamin B6, potassium and slow-releasing energy.
4. Beans and lentils
Switching a meat-based meal for dried beans or lentils (pulses) can significantly reduce your supermarket bill, while aiding health.
“Pulses are a good source of fibre and protein,” says Lisa Moane, a nutritionist and food scientist. “The soluble fibre helps lower cholesterol and also contains other nutrients helpful for heart health.”
Seed varieties such as chia and linseed are a healthy and versatile ingredient able to be used in baking, puddings, smoothies and as toppings, and a good source of essential fatty acids and fibre.
1. Gluten-free products
Unless you have coeliac disease, or gluten intolerance of some form, Feren advises steering clear of products marketed as gluten free; they often contain less nutrition than their non-gluten counterparts. These items can also come with a hefty price tag, Raleigh adds.
2. Fruit juice
Regardless of whether it’s completely natural or contains additives, Raleigh says fruit juice is an item to avoid.
“Anyone who has ever squeezed fresh fruit juice themselves will know how many pieces of fruit it can take to fill a glass … with a minimum of three-to-five pieces of fruit going into an average glass.
“If a child could sit down and consume all three-to-five pieces of fruit … they would be extremely full, whereas when we drink the juice it often feels only a bit more filling than any other fluid.”
3. Canned soup
It’s easy to reach for canned soups when you are time poor or waiting for your next pay, but try making your own at home, in bulk, and freezing for later consumption. “Packet soups have a lot of sodium and artificial additives, which are not good for you,” Moane says. “They use gums and thickeners to give substance rather than meat, vegetables and lentils.”