Are you looking to level up your nutrition regimen – This macro-friendly grocery list is a great place to start.
In this blog post, we will examine the core macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – and delve into the five food groups to ensure that our diets include all of those essential nutrients.
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What foods are macro-friendly?
Foods that are macro-friendly supply a substantial amount of particular macronutrients. For example, whole grain toast is under the carbohydrates list, and chicken breast is under the lean proteins list.
Tip: Although we categorize foods into one of three buckets, proteins, carbs, and fats, each food/ingredient will often contain a combination of all three macronutrients.
Macro meal planning
Crafting a grocery list tailored to your nutritional goals begins with understanding the macronutrients you need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Knowing how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates are suitable for you is essential in creating a balanced shopping haul to help keep you on track nutritionally.
Use the macro meal planning guide to help you identify how many grams of protein, fats, and carbs you should eat at each meal.
How to use the Macro Friendly Grocery List
The Macro Friendly Grocery List provides you with a list that is broken down into three categories:
Each section of this list provides a clear path for reaching your daily dietary needs with the optimal macro intake and an even balance of five food groups.
What are the five food groups?
The 5 food groups are whole grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and proteins (like meat or fish). Eating foods from all these groups helps you get the proper nutrients.
To meet the MyPlate dietary recommendations, including whole grains and fruit daily when deciding which carbs you want to purchase. Doing this will ensure that two of your five daily food groups are met. Plus, the carbs!
- Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta, and crackers
- Rice, brown, white, wild
- Bulgur Wheat
- Bread and Wraps (multi-grain, sprouted grain)
- Potato Starch/ Flour
- Sweet Potato
- Beans and Lentils (black beans, garbanzo beans, red lentils)
- Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.)
- Dried Fruits (such as dates and apricots)
Tip: Make sure at least 1/2 of all the grains you purchase are whole grain and buy enough fruit to give you 2 servings per day.
For optimal health, ensure you consume lean proteins and plant-based options whenever feasible. Additionally, choosing low-fat dairy products will often provide you with an additional protein and calcium source.
Lean protein, also known as “lean meats,” is a food low in fat and high in protein. It is a great way to get the protein your body needs while keeping calories and saturated fat low.
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- Egg Whites
- Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Cod)
- White Meat Poultry
- Low-fat Milk
- Lean Ground Beef/Turkey
- Greek Yogurt
Plant-based sources of protein provide a great option for those looking for an alternative to animal proteins. Typically, plant-based proteins are lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber and carbohydrates than their traditional counterparts.
- Lentils & Legumes
Tip: Include a higher amount of protein for breakfast (~30 g +), and make sure you get 25 -30 grams of protein with lunch and dinner. Also, include a protein source with each snack.
To receive dietary fat’s anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective benefits, focus on incorporating unsaturated fats into your diet while limiting saturated fat intake.
- Nuts and Seeds (Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, Flaxseed, Chia Seeds)
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Almond Butter
- Canola Oil
- Sunflower and Safflower Oils
- Ghee/Clarified Butter
- Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Anchovies)
- Dressing and Sauces
Tip: Fat is flavor. Use different sources of fat for cooking with or adding fats to your dish as a dressing or a sauce. Be mindful of portion size and serving size with using fats.
Aim to have a minimum of three to five servings (1/2 cup – 1 cup) of vegetables daily. To ensure you are covered, stock up on 3-5 servings per day for however many days you need them.
- Bell Peppers
Tip: Don’t throw out another vegetable! Instead of putting your freshly-purchased vegetables straight into the bottom drawer, take a few moments to rinse and chop them at home! Prepping your veggies will save you lots of time during meal prep.
When choosing macro-friendly snacks, a good rule of thumb is that each snack includes a source of protein and one other macronutrient.
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Celery sticks with peanut butter
- Greek yogurt and berries
- Hard-boiled egg and carrots
- Trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit)
- Hummus and veggie sticks
- Cheese cubes or string cheese with whole-grain crackers
- Protein smoothie bowl
- Turkey jerky and celery sticks
- Dark chocolate-covered nuts or almonds
- Edamame beans sprinkled with sea salt
You have achieved your daily protein macros, including an adequate amount of fiber, but you still have some additional carbs and fats to use up. You can use these macros to add fun foods like your favorite Starbucks or a serving of your favorite sherbert.
- Sugar-Free Jello
- Whipped cream
- Low-fat Ice Cream
- Sugar-free Popsicle
- Low-calorie/Sugar-free Soda
- Sherbet/Fruit Sorbet
- Homemade Protein Bar
- Flavored Yogurt
- Popcorn (air-popped or light microwave)
Macro Shopping Guide
The flexibility that tracking macros offer is a double-edged sword. You can eat whatever you want as long it fits, which sometimes can lead to not being the most optimal food choice.
By ensuring that you are purchasing ingredients from each of the 5 food groups and have a variety of different sources from each, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your nutrition.
Tips For Saving Money
Buy in bulk
Bulk buying allows you to buy large quantities of food at a lower price per unit. I typically will buy my rice, oats, flour, and canned goods in bulk.
Look for store deals or coupons.
I have started to see that the Kroger franchise offers digital coupons and deals on its website. Look for these digital coupons and store discounts when grocery shopping.
Shop generic or store brands
Store-brand products are just as good as their name-brand counterpart but come at a much lower price. Look for generic or store brands and compare the nutrition labels to get the most for your money.
Buy Frozen and canned vegetables.
Frozen and canned vegetables can be a great way to get more variety into your diet. Frozen options are usually flash frozen, so they retain their nutrition and often are less expensive. Canned vegetables are a great way to get certain vegetables that are out of season or hard to find fresh.
Buy frozen fish
Frozen fish is a great way to get protein into your diet while still being affordable. You can also find frozen chicken, pork, and beef at most stores.
Frequently asked questions
How do you grocery shop for macros?
When grocery shopping for macros, it is important to purchase ingredients from each of the 5 food groups and choose a variety of sources from within each. Additionally, consider buying in bulk, looking for store deals or coupons, and buying generic or store brands, frozen and canned vegetables, and frozen proteins like fish.
Can I eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros?
Technically, yes; however, macros only consider the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) and don’t consider the other nutrients you are eating. In addition to the macros, eating nutrient-dense whole foods will provide you with more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than processed or refined products.
How do I figure out my food macros?
You must calculate your daily calorie needs to figure out your food macros. Once you know how many calories you should eat daily, it’s time to examine the macronutrient breakdown. A good starting point would be 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein.
Grocery Shopping according to your macros is a great way to take control of your nutrition and eat the foods you enjoy while still hitting your health and fitness goals.
Shopping with this Macro-friendly grocery list will help you get the most out of your nutrition. Combining a variety of food groups and monitoring macro intakes ensures that your nutritional needs for calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients are met.
Happy Macro Shopping!
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Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.
Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.