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The options in our modern grocery stores allow many healthy choices for those who don't like to cook or who lack cooking skills or equipment. Generally, ready-to-eat foods purchased at the grocery store cost more than if the same ingredients are purchased and prepared at home. However, these ready-to-eat foods do cost less than if purchased in a café or restaurant. Convenience usually comes with a price -- whether it is money, time or quality of the food.

From the produce section

Choose foods that can easily be eaten raw. Bananas, apples, grapes, oranges and baby carrots are five of the easiest to prepare or carry along in a lunch bag or briefcase or to have as a snack.

  • Green and red leafy lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and tomatoes are other good vegetable choices; a low fat salad dressing could be a dip with these.
  • Baking a small white potato, a sweet potato, a yam or a piece of winter squash in a microwave for 5-10 minutes provides a hot dish with very little effort.
  • Frozen vegetables such as peas or green beans are also a good investment. Frozen vegetables are also easy and fast to cook in the microwave or on the stove top.
  • Almost all fruits in season are good choices since they require no cooking and little preparation.
  • Fruit juices, such as orange juice, or the blended juices like banana-orange-pineapple, are tasty and convenient. Be sure they are labeled 100% juice for the best nutrition.

From the dairy section

Choose cow's milk or a fortified soy milk beverage with at least one meal every day.

  • Choose low fat milk, low fat yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Low fat cheeses, like individually wrapped string cheese.
  • Low fat soymilk fortified with calcium, or other soy milk products, can also meet the need for calcium and protein.

From the meat section (and protein rich foods)

  • Choose protein rich foods that are low in fat, or from which the fat can be removed.
  • Make a salad into a meal by adding low fat lunchmeat, hard-boiled egg, cooked shrimp, canned tuna, cooked chicken, garbanzo or kidney beans.
  • A roasted chicken from the deli is a good choice if the skin is removed before eating.
  • Fresh fish can be baked quickly: choose thin fillets like sole and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes for each half-inch of thickness.
  • Peanut or other nut butter is a convenient protein source if you can afford the extra calories from the peanut or nut oils.
  • Canned salmon is a healthy protein choices and ready-to-eat.
  • Pregnant women should avoid deli meats, hot dogs unless they are heated and soft cheeses.

To get your grains

  • Whole grain cereal, hot or cold, is a good breakfast when paired with fruit and cow's milk or a fortified soymilk.
  • Bread can become a sandwich, or be eaten alongside of a salad or soup. Choose a whole grain bread or roll.
  • Tortillas, fat free refried beans, some chicken and chopped tomato and lettuce are an easy meal, which becomes a treat with some salsa.
  • Pocket (pita) bread can become a handheld meal when filled with an assortment of foods from salads to meat and cheese.
  • Ramen noodles can be the basis for quick soup: add frozen vegetables and some cooked meat or seafood to the liquid, or stir in a beaten egg during the last few minutes of cooking.

Deli sections

Deli counters are a tempting place to shop. Make healthy choices by avoiding salads held together with mayonnaise or sour cream.

  • Look for salads with a variety of vegetables.
  • Lean meats like turkey breast are a good choice.
  • At salad bars, choose dark green leafy lettuces and spinach.

One portion of a main dish like lasagna can be made into a meal with a side of raw vegetables like carrots and celery. Low fat frozen entrees can be served in the same way.