BU Today

Health & Wellness

Food 101: Grocery Shopping

A few things to think about on your first trip to the market


As the Class of 2018 arrives on campus, BU Today has put together a series of articles we call Campus Life 101. Each day this week, we are providing you with tips about some important basics: how to shop for groceries, how to do laundry, how to pick the right backpack to avoid injuries, how to avoid or reduce stress and anxiety, and how to stay safe on—and off—campus.

For many upperclassmen, moving to apartments on or off campus offers plenty of thrills. But they may quickly find themselves missing some of the creature comforts of dormitory living: bathrooms no longer just clean themselves, and dining halls with numerous entrée options give way to a kitchen stocked with nothing but Ramen noodles, pasta, and a can of tuna. How are you going to eat well, especially if you’re on a budget?

Since the first step to good cooking is knowing how to shop for healthy ingredients, we asked Stacey Zawacki (SAR’98, SPH’13), director of the BU Sargent Choice Nutrition Center to give us a tour of a local supermarket to offer tips on buying fresh produce and protein-rich foods. With some care and planning, she says, you can get all of your groceries for the week in one visit without the worry and expense of spoilage. For starters, Zawacki offers these tips:

Fruits and vegetables

  • Most people don’t eat enough of these nutrient-rich superstars: aim for two servings of fruits and three of vegetables each day.
  • A mixture of ripe and unripe produce will get you through the week. Broccoli will outlast lettuce. Green bananas will be yellow and ready to eat once you finish your berries.
  • Not sure how to tell if it’s ripe? Don’t hesitate to ask the produce manager.
  • For the best quality, buy fresh produce when it is in season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a nutritious and convenient alternative when fresh can’t be had. Cauliflower and blueberries, for example, are picked and flash-frozen at the peak of harvest and can be served anytime.

Protein-rich foods

  • The leanest cuts of meat include skinless chicken and turkey breast. “Select” grades of meat such as sirloin and round are often healthier and more affordable than “prime” cuts.
  • Choose a small piece of salmon twice a week for a delicious dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • For the best quality, eat fresh fish the same day you buy it. Frozen or canned varieties are more affordable and convenient.
  • You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy the health benefits of plant proteins like nuts, beans, hummus, and tofu. Think “flexitarian”: meat-free is good for the environment and your wallet.

A healthy shopping list and more

  • A complete list of ingredients to stock your healthy pantry can be found on the Sargent Choice Healthy Shopping List.
  • Interested in a cooking class or a counseling session with a registered dietitian? Check out all of the resources available to students at the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center website.

“I hope this will help make cooking healthy, delicious meals a reality for students setting up their first kitchen,” says Zawacki.

Find more tips on how to navigate college life in our series, Campus Life 101.

This story originally ran October 3, 2011.

Alan Wong

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

11 Comments on Food 101: Grocery Shopping

  • Erin on 10.04.2011 at 1:37 pm

    Is there any way that alumns can get access to the healthy shopping list? Thanks!

  • Amy M Laskowski on 10.04.2011 at 2:27 pm

    Erin, it’s at the end of the article- the link is the “Sargent Choice Healthy Shopping List.” Enjoy!

    • Gregory Cornelius on 10.04.2011 at 2:44 pm

      Amy, for some reason, Sargent Choice staff has limited access to current members of the BU community.

  • Stacey Zawacki on 10.05.2011 at 8:07 am

    Hi Everyone,
    I received this great question from a student yesterday.


    I would like to ask a question about the “Healthy Shopping List” that was linked to on this morning’s “BU Today” article describing how undergrads can set themselves up to cook healthy meals as they venture away from campus dormitories (attached).  Notably, I was wondering why you recommend that non-root vegetables are purchased fresh while others (e.g. broccoli) are purchased frozen and why some berries (strawberries) are recommended fresh while others (blueberries and blackberries) should be purchased frozen.  Does it have to do with nutrient stability over potentially long journeys from farm to market, cost due to limited seasonal availability, or something else that I have not considered?  These distinctions took me by surprise so I figured I would ask directly.


    First and foremost, we think stocking a mixture of frozen and canned options is the best way to ensure a daily dose of fruits and vegetables if (and usually when) the fresh supply runs out.  Second, some fresh products deteriorate faster than others (e.g. Blueberries and blackberries deteriorate faster than strawberries). Since our local growing season is short, products that are flash frozen before they start traveling are just as nutritious as “fresh” products that may be sitting for weeks before they hit your table.  In addition, frozen broccoli and cauliflower come in handy pre-cut packages. Purchasing them as a medley is a good strategy for ensuring a variety of colors. It is hard to convey the rationale for our recommendations in a short video.  I hope students will visit our Center and consult with one of our registered dietitians (free of charge) if they have questions.

  • Jeanne on 10.05.2011 at 2:42 pm

    I selected the “Healthy Shopping List” link and it directed me to “The webpage cannnot be found”. Can you double check the link or send the shopping list via email?

    Thank you,

  • Brooke on 10.07.2011 at 11:31 am

    I am curious to know if dried fruits are also a good option to add in ceral, yogurt, etc. Do they maintain nutients as “flash frozen” fruits do? I see dried berries, apples, bananas in the grocery aisles and wanted to know if this is also a good alternative off-season.

    Thank you for this article and shopping list.

  • Eric on 01.13.2012 at 6:53 am

    What are your thoughts on articles that state the fat in dairy is needed to absorb the nutrients (calcium, protein) and less likely to spike sugar levels?

  • Leo on 08.28.2013 at 5:22 am

    For those of you unable to download the shooping list, I have mirrored it here

    • Shelley on 08.28.2013 at 11:06 am

      Thank you, Leo!

  • Earle on 08.28.2013 at 4:15 pm

    Quite an interesting and informative video, imho. I’ll try to incorporate several of these tips into my diet. Thanks for posting.

  • Karen Jacobs on 08.29.2013 at 4:12 am

    Stacey & Rhett,

    Thanks for this very informative video!


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