As a registered dietitian, visiting the grocery store is like taking a trip to Disneyland. There are always new foods, recipe ingredients and trends to try and learn about for myself and my clients. Summer at the grocery store is a special time because it’s packed full of delicious seasonal products that are unique and perfectly suited for summer activities and temperatures. Here are my top summer grocery staples that I never leave the store without, and why I love them so much.
Blueberry season is the best season, and these tasty berries just so happen to be at their peak in the summertime. Blueberries contain high amounts of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which gives them their deep blue hue. They have potent anti-inflammatory properties that help protect our cells. Blueberries are also a great source of vitamin C, important for skin and immune health, and fiber, which helps promote satiety after meals. I love blueberries for breakfast on top of Greek yogurt or a bowl of oats, or on their own as a portable beach or park day snack. Try freezing fresh blueberries for a refreshingly cold treat on a hot day.
To me, salsa screams summer. It’s refreshing and versatile and can add taste, flavor and texture to anything from omelets to tacos and quesadillas. Salsa also makes a perfect outdoor dinner party snack paired with some pita, tortilla chips or fresh veggies. Nutrition-wise, tomato-based salsas are high in the antioxidant lycopene, as well as vitamin C. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals, and may help reduce the risk of chronic disease and some cancers. You can’t really go wrong when choosing a salsa — a chunky tomato salsa is my favorite for tacos, eggs and chips, but I love a salsa with fruit like mango or peach for a little sweetness from time to time, too. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have great “house” brands for a variety of salsa flavors.
Peanut and almond butter are always on my list of grocery staples, and summer is no exception. They are great sources of healthy, monounsaturated fats, as well as protein and fiber, which make them a satisfying addition to meals and snacks. I love adding nut butters to my pre-run banana in the morning, using them as a sauce ingredient for a cold noodle salad or making a quick and portable nut butter sandwich for a day trip to the beach.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard are in season during the summertime and are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Dark leafy greens are high in bone-building calcium and vitamin K, folate and iron, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C, which help support a strong immune system.
Dark leafy greens are also packed with filling fiber. They make a great base for a refreshing summer salad, and can be added to a wrap, quesadilla or homemade pizza on the grill (one of my favorites!) for some extra color and nutrients.
Sandwiches are a must for quick, summertime lunches and dinners. They’re easy, portable and satisfying, with no cooking required. Sprouted-grain bread is my go-to sandwich bread because it’s hearty and filling, with more fiber and protein than a typical whole-wheat bread. I love bringing a PB and banana or turkey sandwich to the beach or pool side, road trips or having them as a quick lunch at home before taking my dog to the park.
Sprouted-grain bread is available in most grocery stores these days, the most popular brand being Ezekiel. When looking for sprouted-grain breads at the grocery store, check out the freezer section, which contains some brands as this helps keep the bread fresh for a longer period. Sprouted-grain breads should have at least 4–5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per slice, more than most other breads.
Cherries are typically in season mid-June through July in the Northeast, and taking advantage of this is always a priority! Cherries are delicious and portable, make great beach or pool snacks. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Tart cherries are also one of the only food sources of melatonin, which can help promote healthy sleep.
I am a big fan of whole grains — they are high in fiber, B vitamins and carbohydrates, which our bodies need for energy every single day. Quinoa and farro are summer favorites because they make an excellent base for grain salads, which can be eaten at room temperature or chilled, perfect for summer lunches or dinners.
There are few things better than a bowl of ice cream on a warm summer night (or afternoon!), and it always has a place in my grocery basket. I am a firm believer in the “all foods can fit” mentality — ice cream can have a place in the diet just like kale can. It may not be as nutrient-dense as some other foods listed above, but it can be nourishing to the soul, and that matters too! When choosing ice cream, I always go for the good quality stuff as opposed to the “diet” versions. They are more satisfying and contain less junky “filler” ingredients like sugar substitutes and processed fibers.
The changing temperatures and relaxed mindset of summertime often provides motivation to add different foods to the diet (like seasonal produce!) or try some different recipes. Going to the grocery store during the summer can and should be a fun exploration. Having a few summer staples is always helpful when it comes to meal and snack planning, but I always encourage leaving room in the cart for a couple new-to-you seasonal items as well. Variety is key when it comes to your nutrition. Taking advantage of the unique foods available, different recipes and meal settings (the beach!) This time of year cannot only add some fun to your diet, but countless health-promoting nutrients.
Make progress every day while you work on mini fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps or learning to track macros. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.