Chef Robert Lewis’ 3 Tips for Smarter Grocery Shopping

Chef Robert Lewis

People ask me all the time who cooks at our house. My wife and I have a rule that whoever gets home first at the end of the day is the one who cooks. It seems that most evenings it is my car that pulls into the driveway first. Hmmm… I guess my wife is in another traffic jam?

I am a chef and a diabetic, and I commit daily to healthy cooking and eating as a lifestyle choice for my family and me. I look for ways to take ordinary ingredients and turn them into something extraordinary!  Healthy meals don’t start in your kitchen; they start with choices at the grocery store, in the garden, or at the farmers market. I think of my shopping trips like a treasure hunt. Finding a new vegetable, fruit, or grain is an adventure in flavor!

Success starts with a plan! The outer aisle or the perimeter of the grocery store is where you will find those fresh nutrition-dense foods. When you go to the grocery store, don’t stray from your shopping list! This will ensure that you will not be going home and stocking your fridge and pantry with unhealthy foods.

So let’s get started on a grocery store shopping adventure!

Step 1: Make a List and Take It with You

Always know what you need to buy before you get to the store. Don’t depend on your memory. Don’t waste time wandering every aisle…looking at every product and being tempted. If it is not a part of your meal plan, pass it by.

Step 2: Be Intentional about Shopping the Outside Aisles

If you take notice of the layout of a grocery store, you will notice that the outside aisles are home to nutrition-dense fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy. It is around these food items that you will want to plan your meal. The foods that are pre-packaged in cans and boxes found in the center aisles are those convenience foods that advertisers tempt you to buy. Keep in mind that some manufacturers of food products want your dollar and do take responsibility for your good health. Convenience foods may be tasty but they often hide excess fat, sugar, and salt. Shop the outside aisles and I will teach you how to cook up those healthier foods in your kitchen without compromising great taste…Trust me in this!

There are some essential healthy food choices in those inner aisles, but be careful not to be tempted as you venture in! You do want to grab those high-fiber legumes like chickpeas and beans, high-fiber “tree-barky” whole grains, frozen produce that is “fresh” in every season, and cooking staples like mono-unsaturated oils and spices.  Just be sure that you spend most of your time in the outside aisles.

Step 3: Get Excited about Fruits and Vegetables!!

Brightly colored fruits and veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, oranges, berries, and peppers are complex carbohydrate foods that are high in fiber and chock-full of antioxidants, which are nature’s rust inhibitors. Dark leafy greens, such as Romaine lettuce, spinach, and arugula, are low in calories, good for your heart health, and keep sugar levels lower. I have found techniques for seasoning and roasting fresh vegetables that make them as flavorful and satisfying as a fatty casserole…and much healthier!! I am happy to share these cooking ideas with you! Visit me at!

These are some of my “treasure hunt” tricks that I use when I grocery shop – I hope they work for you too! Take time to read nutrition labels and be sure to get everything on your list. Happy shopping, cooking, and eating!

You can find many of Chef’s recipes on our website here.


Additional Resources:

Understanding Carbs and Their Effect on Blood Sugar

Diabetes Breakfasts: Thinking Outside the (Cereal) Box!

Success or Sabotage: How to Snack Smartly!

How to Eat Healthy and Feel Great with Type 1 Diabetes

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