This dietitian’s post-vacation grocery list to get back to healthful eating

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If you are coming back from vacation, you will likely be coming home to an empty fridge. I recently came back from my summer vacation. While I was not starting from a totally empty pantry, I needed more fresh ingredients in my fridge plus a few regular household staples.

As a Registered Nutritionist and Dietitian, I find people are very curious about what and how I eat, so I thought I would share my post-vacation grocery list…the list used so I can resume a more “regular”, healthful eating pattern. Here is what I bought and why.


This dietitian’s post-vacation grocery list to get back to healthful eating

Vegetables (choose a rainbow of colors each day) Fruits (choose a rainbow of colors each day, prepared with little/no added fat, sugar or salt)
  • Bagged kale salad
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Baby carrots
  • Snap peas
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Hummus
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Lemon



Grains (at least half should be whole grain; choose those that are lower in sugar, fat, salt) Milk/Alternatives (include at least 2 choices each day; read labels to make wise choices)
  • Whole grain bread
  • Macaroni noodles
  • Cereal (toasted O’s, Krispy Rice)


  • Milk X 2
  • Yogurt – 2% plain Greek + 1 flavoured
  • Cottage cheese 1%
  • Butter
Canned  (choose lower sodium versions) Meat/Alternatives (eat fish twice a week; select lean meats/alternatives prepared ; include plant-based proteins)
  • Light coconut milk
  • Crushed pineapple





  • Eggs (18-24)
  • Salmon
  • Chicken thighs
  • Whole chicken
  • Ground chicken
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Almonds
Frozen Dried goods
  • Frozen berries
  • Frozen mangos
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Apple juice
  • Chicken stock (no salt added)
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Compost bags



  • Bagged kale salad – this is the salad-in-a-bag kit with chopped kale, cabbage, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and poppyseed dressing. In our house, we go through two bags of this a week. I eat it with most of my lunches because it is simple and quick to assemble (of course, to this I add in protein like left over chicken or boiled eggs). Of course, I do enjoy the taste of it or I wouldn’t eat it. I especially like how good it makes me feel after over-doing it on vacation. I could definitely make my own kale salad – but after vacation, I need to use efficient kitchen strategies for meal planning – and this is one of them.
  • Romaine lettuce – this is a kind of lettuce that my kids will eat in a salad. We also enjoy Romaine lettuce with tacos and in sandwiches.
  • Snack-able vegetables – grape tomatoes, baby carrots, snap peas and cucumber are all easy veggies with which to create an instant veggie platter. These snack-able veggies require no prep, making it convenient to grab a handful and munch away.
  • Celery – I like the crunch of celery. I also wanted to have some on-hand for making chicken broth.
  • Hummus – This ready-to-eat dip is a perfect pairing with my snack-able vegetables. Hummus is not a vegetable, but I usually find it near the vegetable section of the grocery store, so I put it in this section of my list.


  • Bananas – We go through a lot of bananas in our house. I will often slice up a banana with my yogurt or cottage cheese. We add in bananas to our smoothies because they add in natural creaminess. And, I love to have extras around for baking banana bread or pumpkin banana muffins.
  • Apples – Apples were nature’s first fast-food. They are a great grab-and-go snack, full of nutrition and taste good with a little bit of almond butter.
  • Berries, cantaloupe – These are fruits my family enjoys.
  • Lemon – Freshly squeezed lemon juice on my kale salad helps brighten up the flavour while also making it easier for me to use less dressing on my salad.


  • Whole grain bread – This is a staple in our house for toast and sandwiches. I like the hearty Dempster’s whole grain breads- they are chewy and have nice texture, as well as fiber!
  • Macaroni noodles – We were out of this pantry staple, which we use for mac and cheese or pasta salad. I bought the regular macaroni noodles.
  • Cereal – While I do not eat much cereal, I like to have this in my house because it is something my kids like. Toasted O’s are their favourite (well actually, their favourite is the fruity-O’s but I don’t buy that as part of our regular shopping, especially when we are getting back from vacation! I like that they get their milk when they eat cereal. I needed krispy rice so I can make and freeze some Krispie Rice Squares for the upcoming school-lunches.


  • Milk – We drink milk throughout the week. I love to have milk in my coffee.
  • Yogurt – I like to have plain Greek yogurt for my breakfast or snack. The Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein. I prefer the 2% Greek as it tastes better than the fat-free kind! We also buy flavoured yogurts. When I eat them, I usually (but not always) mix it with some plain yogurt to cut the sugar. My kids enjoy the flavoured yogurts.
  • Cottage cheese – This is another protein source which I add to my breakfasts or lunches. On my Energize Nutrition Facebook Page, there was some discussion around how people eat their cottage cheese. Some people preferred to eat it with cinnamon, sweetener and fruit (myself included) while other people preferred a more savoury style with tomato, fresh herbs and maybe some flavoured olive oil. To read the ideas, go to the post from August 22.
  • Butter – I like to bake with butter and given that school is in 2 weeks, I know I will be doing more baking. Butter is a fat – but I will find it near the dairy case – so I put it in this section of my grocery list.


Canned items:

  • Light coconut milk – Light coconut milk is a staple ingredient for making curries. I had a delicious curry dish at the Curry Bowl in Fernie, and feel inspired to try to recreate this dish at home.
  • Canned crushed pineapple – In the spirit of the before-school baking binge over the next 2 weeks, I want to make some carrot pineapple sunshine muffins – so needed some canned pineapple.



  • Eggs – Eggs are a super-quick protein to cook up. I often boil up half a dozen eggs on the weekend so I have a grab-and-go protein choice available for the week ahead. My kids enjoy them scrambled. My husband like omelets. And, with the upcoming before-school bake-fast, I will need to have eggs on-hand.
  • Salmon – While away on vacation, I seemed to eat lots of beef. Steaks. Hamburgers. Roast beef. I didn’t eat any fish. I am hungry to get back to my more regular eating pattern. Salmon has healthful omega-3 fatty acids and is an excellent source of protein. I can enjoy salmon as my main meal, and then use leftovers in salmon burgers, a salad or a wrap.
  • Chicken – My family loves chicken. We prefer the flavour and texture of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (versus chicken breasts). We also wanted to have some ground chicken with which we could make chicken tacos and chicken burgers. A whole chicken is an excellent way to have dinner one night with “sandwich meat” available the next day. The chicken carcass can be thrown into your slow cooker, along with carrots and celery, for chicken broth.
  • Pork tenderloin – We need a variety of meats but sometimes get stuck on chicken. It is good to have a variety of foods to enjoy the benefits of what each offers. Pork tenderloin is lean and is great on the BBQ, roasted in the oven, and “pulled” in the slow cooker.
  • Almonds – I like to have almonds and other nuts on-hand for quick grab-and-go snacks. I like the taste of roasted almonds. We already have pecans and pistachios at home.


Frozen fruit

  • Frozen fruit – I love frozen fruit for smoothies. They add in flavour, an anti-oxidant punch, as well as an icy coolness that I have come to expect from my smoothie. Frozen fruit also make for great snacks…frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries and more! Having frozen fruit on hand is a strategy I use for “stretching out” my grocery shop for the week…I may run out of fresh fruit, but then I can turn to frozen (and then thawed) fruit.


Dried goods

  • Whole wheat flour – I needed more for my upcoming before-school bake-fest.
  • Apple juice – To sweeten and thin out my smoothies.
  • Chicken stock – This is a good staple to have on hand for quick soups.
  • Grapeseed oil – We were out of oil!


What is missing from this grocery shop:

  • Legumes – we already have a variety of dried and canned legumes in the house.
  • Foods that fit the 20% of my diet. This includes soulful, bliss foods (think 80:20 rule) and wine. After being on vacation, I was definitely over the 20%, as often happens while on vacation (hello ice cream, desserts, free-pour wine, chips and other salty snacks).

While I feel like I want to “detoxify” from my vacation, I don’t need to do a detox. Instead, this week, I will get back to my “regular” eating pattern where these kinds of bliss foods assume a less prominent place in my daily eating. My grocery list and purchases will help make that happen.


I would love to hear from you – what are the key ingredients that you include on your post vacation grocery list? Email me or contact me through social media to share your ideas.

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Calgary, AB.

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