Grocery store shelves jammed with thousands of products can be overwhelming. The temptations are many, and the potential for confusion abounds.

We asked Beth Kitchin, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to take us grocery shopping with an eye toward choosing the best foods for someone with arthritis. Here are her suggestions for turning grocery shopping into power shopping.

Fruits and vegetables

Fill your cart with fresh foods grown in the earth, and on trees and vines. These foods are low in calories, high in bulk and will give you plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that science has shown may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease and many other serious illnesses.

Smart grocery shopping tips:

  • Look for color. Go for deep red, dark green, bright purple and other appealing hues to get the most benefits.
  • Think berries. They’re chock full of bioflavonoids that fight inflammation, cancer and other ills. Buy pints of fresh blueberries, blackberries, cherries and cranberries, and dried or frozen berries out of season.
  • Buy fruits and veggies you can keep on hand for snacks. Some that make good finger-foods are red and purple grapes, red peppers, apples with the skin, carrots and cucumbers.
  • Remember avocados, which are a source of good (unsaturated) fat, magnesium and potassium. They’re great chopped on a salad, lining a sandwich or as guacamole.
  • Grab heads of cruciferous vegetables. 
  • Buy dark-leafed lettuce varieties rather than iceberg, which has little nutritional value.

Bread

Studies show that three or more servings of whole grains a day lessen the risk of heart disease. Whole grains keep blood sugar and energy even. Getting 25 g or more of fiber in your diet lowers cholesterol and also may reduce risk of colon and other cancers.

Smart grocery shopping tips:

  • Read the ingredient list. The package label may say “multi-grain,” “seven-grain” or even “100-percent wheat,” but it’s not truly whole grain unless “whole wheat”
    or “whole grain” is the first ingredient listed.
  • Look beyond bread. If you’re not fond of whole-wheat bread, try whole-grain English muffins, brown rice or cereal.
  • Consider fresh-baked goods. Many stores offer fresh-baked whole-grain breads in their bakery section, which have fewer preservatives.