How not to get malnutrition :D
June 21, 2007 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me create the ultimate grocery list!

I'm moving out next year, and while I do know how to cook, I am pretty clueless when it comes to a healthy diet. I've eaten Chinese food all my life and I get a pretty even portion of meats and vegetables and fruits, but since I will be doing my own shopping next year...

What I'm looking for is a complete (or pretty damn good) list of all/most essential nutrients, and which foods contain them. Ideally, I could eat all the items on the list over a month/two months and at the end of the year end up well-nourished and scurvy-free.

Failing that, could AskMe help list off the things that are essential to have in your diet over a reasonable period of time in order to remain healthy?

No allergies, overenthusiastic love of fruits and salty food.
posted by Phire to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best thing you can do is to immediately start going shopping and preparing meals with your mom or dad, whoever does the cooking. Get them to teach you simple techniques and combinations of things that go well together. Also basic food safety. In no time you'll be preparing tasty and nutritious meals!
posted by fshgrl at 8:22 PM on June 21, 2007

It's pretty easy to eat the essentials without even trying, unless you're in an artifically constrained environment (like a ship, or eating vegan).
posted by smackfu at 8:33 PM on June 21, 2007

I know I was concerned about this when I moved away from home, so I copied tons of recipes from my mom's cookbook before I left.

Also I invested in several vitamins and supplements to make sure I was good to go. You should check into that too.
posted by old blue eyes at 8:39 PM on June 21, 2007

Best answer: When you first move out, you'll want to get some olive oil, soy, vineagar, salt, pepper, butter, lemon juice, and a few cans of soup for emergencies.

Then buy one medium sized pot and one small pot (or another medium sized). Buy a few big plastic or wooden spoons, one with holes in it. These will allow you to scoop stuff into other stuff. You'll also want a set of silverware. I bought a set for 12 at a Target-type store. Then I got a set of 4 plates and bowls. These generally also come with little side plates and little coffee mugs. Those are sort of unneeded. You'll want 4 cups and 4 mugs as well. Also get a set of cheap knives from a Bed, Bath, Beyond type place (~$12) or get 1 or 2 really good knives. Also get a measuring cup.

Those are the basics that you'll need around the house. If you start becoming a better cook, you'll add along the way.

Other than that, the easiest/most sustainable thing to do is to buy what you need as you go. I try to go to Trader Joe's once a week or every other week for the meals I am going to prepare. Making food for 1 sucks - it is easier to make for 1 and freeze. I rotate pastas, stir frys, pizzas, chicken breasts... I always have "salad-in-a-bag" in the fridge and eat it for dinner or as a side almost every night.

I like organic food, so I try to get my fruits and veggies at farmers' markets. In the wintertime in a colder climate, it is easier to buy frozen veggies.

You'll figure it out as you go. There are easier things to make and harder things to make. The easier things are just as filling as the harder things.
posted by k8t at 8:44 PM on June 21, 2007 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You might want to check out The World's Healthiest Foods website. They list the nutrients in each food pretty meticulously, and they have lots of recipes you can try, most of which are fairly easy for an inexperienced cook.

I also find this chart helpful when I'm preparing vegetables.
posted by arianell at 8:50 PM on June 21, 2007

Mark Bittman is an excellent chef to read up on. His "thing" is minimalism and he does some incredible things with it. This means easy and simple for you, both in terms of time and in ingredients.

Here's a video of "shopping for the basics". A great cookbook of his to start with is "How to Cook Everything".
posted by kcm at 8:50 PM on June 21, 2007

Pretty complicated request- your health needs will change at various points in your life- a naturopath or nutritional counselor may be able to help you with diet advice specifically tailored to your needs.

Here are a few handy items:

blueberries- antioxidants, Vitamin C
salmon (or salmon oil capsules)- Omega3s
Brazil nuts-selenium
blackstrap molasses-iron, zinc, manganese, copper, calcium
posted by solongxenon at 8:58 PM on June 21, 2007

If you don't want scurvy, citrus is the way to go.

Cooking for yourself to stay alive is surprisingly easy. If you put some meat in a pretty hot pan with some oil and then cook it for a while, and then eat some vegetables. Add some bread or noodles or rice, and you're living healthy.

If you want to cook for yourself and like it, that's an entirely different ballgame. Watch the food network. Watch your folks. learn the basics of cooking, and proper taste combinations, and it's hard to make something taste bad, short of burning it. If you have any sort of scientific or analytical mind, i'd venture to guess you'd really like Alton Brown. He has episodes that specifically deal with basic food theory (his episode on spices is pretty key.) Learn to cook with variety and you won't go malnourished.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:50 PM on June 21, 2007

Ditto the Mark Bittman recommendation. Also, if you are into the more analytical, left-brain side of cooking, check out Cooking for Engineers. Not my cup of tea (I find the recipes completely counterintuitive to someone who is used to reading recipes), but people seem to like it.
posted by rossination at 11:17 PM on June 21, 2007

Cooking for Engineers rocks. If, that is, you're an engineer or other sciency-minded / procedural person.

Anyway, I'll nth getting some recipes and using those as your shopping list. Buying ingredients and then searching for recipes can be an interesting exercise, but invariably you'll end up short one ingredient to do the one thing you want to eat that night.

Better instead to get a lot of recipes that you want to try, and each week lay them out by day. (If you end up changing the order mid-week that's OK, but just get an idea of which recipes you want to try that week.) Then take the cards with you, or copy the ingredients off to your grocery list. It's the best way I've found to build up a kitchen that's stocked around the way you cook -- or want to cook.

I keep most of my recipes in a TiddlyWiki database on the computer, and then just print them out when I want them, but index cards would work just fine too. TiddlyWiki is cool because it lets you tag articles/recipes and then you can search based on them; I tag recipes with type of dish, course, and main ingredients, so that later on if I want to have chicken, it's trivial to pull out all the chicken recipes.

Just make sure your meals are balanced (might want to get a healthy-cooking cookbook if you're concerned), and buy groceries for your meals, and you should avoid the scurvy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:03 AM on June 22, 2007

nthing Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and Cooking for Engineers. I love the gantt charts (at Cooking for Engineers) that break down when to do things! It prevents some of the re-reading of recipes that I often have to do to figure out exactly when to do something.
posted by at 5:57 AM on June 22, 2007

World's Healthiest Foods. I haven't checked the site for accuracy, but it seems like a good what-ingredients-rock and how-to-cook-said-ingredients site.

It also has a complete list (or a list that looks complete to me) of what nutrients are in each ingredient (if you check 'eating healthy' and not 'cooking healthy') -- i.e., look at salmon.

Just ignore all the advertising there, and it's golden.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:42 AM on June 22, 2007

Best answer: Get a good cookbook (my mom used a Better Homes & Gardens one for years, with the red plaid cover - I bought a new copy for myself because the one I inherited from her was falling apart; my aunt swears by an old version of the Joy of Cooking). Flip through the cookbook and find recipes that look good to you. Build shopping lists based on the ingredients.

Just try to keep things balanced. You need to have a decent intake of protein (eggs, meat or beans are good sources), healthy fats (fish and nut oils, or vegetable fats such as avocado), complex carbs (whole grains, brown rice, etc.), vegetables for essential nutrients (green leafy veggies [not iceberg lettuce - it's pretty much nutritionally void] and colorful veggies such as carrots, peppers, tomato, etc.). Lastly, you'll want some moderate inclusion of fattier items such as dairy, and even less of animal fats and refined carbs.

Some of the favorite recipes my wife and I enjoy are quick but good for you. In a pinch, lentils and rice are great - throw a cup of each into a rice cooker, add water, steam until done. The lentils and rice complement each other, nutritionally. For more fun you can add in ground meat/meat substitute (we really like adding meatless crumbles to this - the Morningstar or Quorn crumbles work well), or a cup of frozen veggies, or throw some free-range chicken breasts in the top of the steamer and eat the lentils and rice as a side dish... Rice cookers are surprisingly versatile, and for a busy lifestyle they work wonders. Fill it up, turn it on, go to the gym or whatever, come home and dinner is done. Brown rice becomes a snap instead of a pain.

Good luck with your healthy eating!
posted by caution live frogs at 6:56 AM on June 22, 2007

Best answer: Protein in the form of meat is a no-brainer: almost any meat will give you good nutritional protein. If you don't want to eat meat all the time, you can get tofu, flavoured or unflavoured, beans, nuts, cheese, yoghurt, etc.

Minerals in a diet are very important and the best place to get those are in vegetables. The rule of thumb is the darker green in colour, the better it is for you. Things like collard greens, kale, spinach are very high in iron, but most vegetables have something to offer. Tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit have lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which may help prevent prostate cancer and some other forms of cancer, heart disease, and other serious diseases. Berries are fantastic for you, specifically blueberries (anti-oxident!!) and cranberries (good for the bladder).

Fish is brain food. Because fish are high in protein but low in fats, they make a great alternative to red meat. Fish are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They also contain nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent heart disease and may help with healthy brain development.

Fiber is a definite must, and the easiest way to get this is from bran breakfast cereals. Add some berries, milk and/or yoghurt and you have a well-rounded breakfast. You can also get fiber from vegetables. Peas, strangely enough, are packed with fiber.

My grocery list looks like this:
grapes, berries, melons, bananas, apples, oranges (the pith, that's the white stuff under the rind, is very good for you, although a pain in teh butt, avocado (highly fatty but very good for you)

juice: don't buy cocktails, they're high in sugar. Make sure you buy pure juices as they have more than enough natural sugar in them. They're pricey, so you may want to stick with orange juice and apple juice. You can buy juice in bulk at costco or trader joe's in bulk to save money. Pulp in oj is GOOD for your body.
celery, red yellow green peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, zucchini, cucumber, brocolli, spinach, beets, .

whole grain breads (ie 12 grain or flax), bagels, cereals (preferably muesli), oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, any rice that isn't white (you can get brown, red, black, wild).

1% milk, eggs, white cheese (the orange cheeses contain food colouring, something you don't need at all), yoghurt

fish and meat, whatever you like, but remember that many meats have bad fat, so the leaner the better. I often buy ground turkey or chicken instead of hamburger.

no kitchen is complete without oil. I use olive oil - it has the best nutritional value but is more expensive. Vinegar is a must as well - white, balsamic, apple and wine vinegars.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of stuff, but this list should get you through a few weeks. You will find that food is time consuming. You have to buy it, prepare it, cook it and clean up after. To save time, buy in bulk and freeze what you can. Cook in large amounts and freeze what you don't eat in portioned amounts. Make smoothies - they're a perfect meal and fast: orange, berries, yoghurt (I love vanilla yoghurt), banana. Blend it all and you're good to go.

Most foods don't last that long, even frozen. They lose flavour and nutritional value fairly quickly, so the sooner you eat what you have, the better your body is.

Eat before you go to the grocery store or you'll find that your cart is full of impulse buys that you wouldn't normally get.

Good luck!
posted by ashbury at 8:05 AM on June 22, 2007

I forgot to mention more about beans. They are packed with protein and fiber and can act as a meat substitute. A great way to have beans is as a dip. Hummus is simple and delicious. One can chick peas, one clove garlic, olive oil, tahini, (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, parsley. Puree it and let it sit for a while to let the flavours mix in.

Pasta salad is a great summer dish that lasts for a few days. Your choice of pasta, cooked and cooled, raw veggies such as red peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, zucchini, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, feta cheese, your choice of bean (I use chick peas but any bean will do), a little salt and pepper, ground coriander, oregano (all to suit your palate, of course) parsley or cilantro as garnish. A perfect, nutritionally well-rounded meal.

One last thing. Do your environment a favour and try to buy local food. All the food at your grocery store is shipped and/or trucked in. If you can hit a farmer's market from time to time, you'll likely get better food and meat, produced locally.

Okay, I'm done.
posted by ashbury at 8:14 AM on June 22, 2007

Your question is headed "How not to get malnutrition". The simple but very effective answer is "Eat a varied diet." Some meat, some fish, some fruit, some vegetables, even make sure you get some fat for the essential fat-soluble vitamins. Eggs, cheese, bread, rice, noodles all fill out your meals usefully and cheaply without being a problem if you cling to the idea of variety. Avoid getting trapped in a habit of eating only a small range of similar meals, and you should be fine. Don't get suckered into buying expensive "superfoods" or refusing everything ever labelled "junk" foods -- watching your weight is the biggest contribution to healthy eating. Be aware that a sport-playing student needs more calories than are in the "ideal diets" aimed at older sedentary office workers.
posted by Idcoytco at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2007

There are some really great cookbooks out there but these are the 2 that I used a lot right after I moved out. Dad's Own Cookbook (it is for single dads) and Where's Mom Now That I Need Her? (it has more than recipies)
posted by nimsey lou at 11:32 AM on June 22, 2007

Not getting malnourished is easy. I think of foods mainly as protein, carbohydrate, and fiber. I try to make sure I have a balance of all those things, and drink enough water. I also take a multivitamin every day. I've been using this approach for about two years, and no scurvy yet!

Example meal (a staple of my diet): Rye bread (buttered) with cheddar cheese, an apple, and a glass of water.
posted by benign at 5:25 PM on June 22, 2007

Best answer: For breakfast, eat a couple of omega-3 enriched free-range organic eggs with 1/2 - 1 cup spinach, 30g / 1 oz walnuts and a cup of blueberries.

For a morning snack, eat 30g / 1 oz almonds.

For lunch, eat 120g / 4oz lean chicken, tuna or salmon, a large green leafy salad (rocket/arugula, parsley), a couple of tomatoes, a tbsp olive oil and some lemon juice. Finish with two oranges.

For an afternoon snack, eat 30g / 1 oz walnuts.

For dinner, eat 125g / 4 oz grass-fed beef, a couple of cups of broccoli, 30g / 1 oz almonds and two apples.

This will give you 2000 calories per day, with ~108g fat, 150g carbs and 110g protein (30% / 40% / 30% by weight, 50% / 30% / 20% by calories). You'll get 46g fibre, or abut 189% of your daily needs. Add a vitamin D3 tablet at breakfast.

Your shopping list for a week:

420g walnuts
420g almonds
14 apples
14 oranges
14 eggs
14 small (or 7 large) tomatoes
840g chicken
360g beef
4 x 7 oz cans tuna
7 cups blueberries
Salad greens
Small bottle extra virgin olive oil
A few lemons

I did a micronutirent analysis once - I don't have the stats, but you're many times over your daily limit for most vitamins and minerals. The exception is calcium, which is just on the RDI. Eating the fine bones in your canned tuna or salmon will help, as will the D3. Take a calcium tab with the D3 if you're worried.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

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