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Make healthier choices at the grocery store

Grocery shopping list iStock

iStock

It happens every week: You push your cart through the local supermarket on autopilot, reaching for the same items again and again. But are the foods you're buying as healthful as you think? Here is what's worth stocking up on.

Aisle 1: Produce
Reach for: Brightly hued fruits and veggies such as carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and oranges

Related: 11 Delicious Low-Calorie Desserts

The payoff: Colorful produce is chock-full of phytonutrients, which may ward off certain cancers as well as heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are also a source of plant sterols, a natural ingredient that can help to lower cholesterol levels.

Aisle 2: Cereal
Reach for: Brands with fewer than 150 calories per cup, at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving

The payoff: By cutting back on sugar, you'll avoid a midmorning energy crash. Plus, a diet rich in fiber can keep you full and may decrease your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Aisle 3: Snacks
Reach for: Walnuts

Related: Easy Shopping Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

The payoff: These nuts are packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eating nuts at least five times per week could lower your risk of diabetes by almost 30 percent, according to Harvard University research.

Aisle 4: Staples
Reach for: Olive oil or canola oil

The payoff: Use these in your cooking for a dose of good-for-you monounsaturated fats. Plus, making these oils part of your diet gives you more omega-3s, which help keep your ticker happy.

Aisle 5: Canned goods
Reach for: A can of kidney, cannellini or pinto beans

Related: Snack Better With These Low-Calorie Swaps

The payoff: Beans are full of protein and fiber. Toss them on top of a salad or use them in place of meat when making a pasta dish.

Aisle 6: Bakery
Reach for: Whole-wheat bread, rolls or tortillas

The payoff: Refined carbs found in white bread cause blood sugar to spike then plummet, leaving you hungry. Carbs that come from whole grains stick with you, so you're less tempted to snack.

Aisle 7: Meat and fish
Reach for: Mackerel, salmon and herring

Related: Find the Best Deals in Your Area with Grocery Circular Roundup

The payoff: Eating 3 ounces of these fish at least twice a week can help ensure that you're getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.

Aisle 8: Freezer
Reach for: Fudgsicles, 100 percent fruit-juice bars or light ice-cream sandwiches

The payoff:
These single-serving treats can help you avoid the temptation of going overboard on ice cream.

Aisle 9: Dairy
Reach for: Low-fat (or skim) milk

The payoff: Switch from whole to 2 percent and you'll cut the saturated fat from 23 percent of your daily allotment to 15 percent for a one-cup serving. By going from 2 percent to 1 percent you'll slash the saturated fat from 15 percent to 7 percent. One cup of fat-free has just 2 percent of your saturated fat for the day.