Unlike many health-oriented grocery stores, Whole Foods stores are large with expansive aisles and lots of options when it comes to organic and nutritionally sound foods.
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"If you do live near a Whole Foods and find it affordable then it's absolutely a great choice for stocking up on groceries," Lisa Moskovitz, RDN, founder and CEO of NY Nutrition Group and author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
"As the name suggests, Whole Foods offers a plethora of nutritious and delicious whole foods, along with an entire section for prepared meals that make eating at home much easier," Moskovitz says.
And, despite the store's "whole paycheck" nickname, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available. "The prices are relatively digestible," says Rachel Fine, RD, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition a nutrition counseling practice in NYC. Fine particularly loves the store brand, 365, for its organic frozen produce options.
Read on for the best things to buy at Whole Foods, all recommended by RDs.
How We Chose These Products
We spoke to nine different registered dietitians for their favorite staples at Whole Foods. Here, they share the items they personally buy for their own households and why. The following products are based on criteria including:
1. 365 Balsamic Vinegar
Nutrition facts per 1 tablespoon: 20 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar and 0 gram of protein
Dana Amaya, RD, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital, appreciates that this vinegar comes at an inexpensive price point. You can use it as a component in homemade salad dressing.
Or, Amaya suggests: Simmer some with lemon juice and a tiny amount of sugar. It'll reduce down and meet the flavor profile of a more expensive option, she says. This balsamic reduction is lovely to drizzle on a watermelon-mint salad during the summertime.
2. 365 Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Nutrition facts per 1 tablespoon: 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of protein
"I love the price point of this specific option," Fine says. This versatile oil can be used to dress salads and when grilling, sauteing, baking or roasting foods, and is on the American Heart Association's list of healthy cooking oils that contain better-for-you fats and low amounts of saturated fats.
3. Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour
Nutrition facts per 2 tablespoons: 80 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 4 grams of protein
This alternative to flour, which is made solely from almonds, is used in many dishes made by Lauren Manaker, RD, a Charleston-based registered dietitian and author of The 7 Ingredient Healthy Pregnancy Cookbook. "Totally gluten-free and paleo-friendly, this flour helps me enjoy baking while continuing to eat high-quality ingredients," she says.
4. Swerve Brown Sugar Replacement
Nutrition facts per 1 teaspoon: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein
When it comes to baked goods and holiday sweets, Maya Feller, RD, CDN of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition, turns to this natural brown sugar replacement. "Replacing sugar with Brown Swerve helps balance my blood sugar levels," Feller says.
5. Mush Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
Nutrition facts per container: 190 calories, 7 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar and 5 grams of protein
MUSH is a favorite staple product from Whole Foods for Monica Salafia, RD. These plant-based oats can be enjoyed for breakfast or a snack. "[Mush overnight oats] have really stuck out to me because their macronutrient profile is perfect for helping people (including myself) hit their fitness goals," Salafia says.
6. Organic Almond Butter
Nutrition facts per 2 tablespoons: 190 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein
Combine nut butter with fruit for a satisfying snack or add it to oatmeal or smoothies for extra protein. Both Shapiro and Fine appreciate that Whole Foods offers nut butters — both peanut butter and almond — in organic varieties. "This version is simply void of any added oils or sugar and tastes great," Shapiro says.
7. Follow Your Heart High Omega Vegan Ranch Dressing
Nutrition facts per 2 tablespoons: 130 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein
Amaya likes this vegan twist on ranch dressing, which she says can be used as a dip, on wraps or as a dressing on salads.
Buy it: Whole Foods; Price: $3.99
8. Canned Wild Tuna
Nutrition facts per can: 140 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 25 grams of protein
There's a whole lot of reasons to stock your pantry with canned tuna: It's full of protein and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids while also being low in calories, Shapiro says. (Don't have it too frequently though, due to the mercury in tuna.) "Void of added salt and simply canned in water this fits most healthy diet profiles and the fact that it is sustainably fished makes us love it more," Shapiro says.
Bonus: There are plenty of ways to use a can of tuna to make a meal beyond tuna salad.
9. Tolerant Foods Organic Red Lentil Penne
Nutrition facts per 3 ounces: 300 calories, 2 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar and 21 grams of protein
Tolerant Foods has several bean-based pastas that are sold at Whole Foods, including ones made from lentils and chickpeas. These pastas are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber, Shapiro says. (A serving of this red lentil variety has 9 grams of fiber.)
"The taste is delicious and it is the perfect addition to gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and normal diets," she says.
10. Frozen Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon
Nutrition facts per 4-ounce portion: 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates and sugar and 25 grams of protein
Eating seafood is good for your health: Fatty fish — like salmon — are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and eating two servings of fish each week is linked to a reduced heart disease risk, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Buying frozen fish means you can always have it on hand for quick, easy and nutritious weeknight dinners, Shapiro says. "And the portioned pieces will keep your portion control in check, too," she says.
11. Good Pop Organic Freezer Pops
Nutrition facts per 3 cherry limeade pops: 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein
"A fan favorite for all of my clients," Shapiro says. Amaya likes these pops as well.
"These hit the spot for any sweet tooth," Shapiro says. She notes they're made with whole-food ingredients and do not contain added sugar or thickeners.
12. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Spiderman Strawberry & Lemon Kid's Pops
Nutrition facts per pop: 35 calories, 0 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein
This is another RD-recommended ice pop. "To tame the sweet tooth of everyone in my family, including my 6-year-old daughter, I keep Chloe's Strawberry and Lemonade Pops on hand for a 35-calorie treat with no artificial colors or flavors," Manaker says.
Buy it: Whole Foods; Price: $5.99
13. Whole Foods Organic Frozen Blueberries
Nutrition facts per cup: 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar and less than a gram of protein
"Keeping frozen berries on hand means you'll always have them around for your smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt or just a healthy snack," Shapiro says. Stash frozen blueberries (or other fruit) in your freezer and you don't need to worry about them being in season or spoiling, she says.
14. Starlight Original Vegan Soy Taquitos
Nutrition facts per one taquito: 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 4 grams of protein
When you don't want to cook all day, Amaya recommends these frozen apps. They're tasty, plant-based and have 3 grams of fiber to help fill you up.
15. Frozen Organic Riced Cauliflower
Nutrition facts per 3/4 cup: 20 calories, 0 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein
"Cauliflower rice is a huge trend these days and making your own can be quite messy," Shapiro says. With a bag in the freezer, you can have it ready to cook, she says.
Nutrition facts per sandwich: 60 calories, 2 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar and 1 gram of protein
When it's time for dessert, Mackenzie Burgess, RDN and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, loves these ice cream sandwiches.
"They're made with real ingredients you can pronounce and contain just 60 calories per bite," Burgess says. She advocates for finding balance and enjoying sweets in moderation — not putting them on a banned foods list. The mini bars are "a perfect way to enjoy your favorite sweet treat while keeping the calories and portions in check," she says.
17. Organic Mixed Veggies
Nutrition facts per 3/4 cup: 60 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein
RDs recommend buying all sorts of organic vegetables from Whole Foods. "Organic frozen veggies are helpful for adding a spectrum of vitamins to your busy nights," Fine says.
Whole Foods' house brand — 365 — has just about every vegetable available frozen, including okra, broccoli, spinach, peas, edamame and more.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $2.49
18. Biena Snacks Buffalo Chickpea Snacks
Nutrition facts per 1 ounce: 110 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 5 grams of protein
This makes for a convenient and tasty snack, Fine says, and it's available in a variety of flavors. "From a nutrition standpoint, these snacks are the perfect combination of protein and fiber, helping to stabilize energy during long afternoons," Fine says. A serving size contains 5 grams each of fiber and protein.
19. Hu Kitchen Chocolate Bars
Nutrition facts per 1/2 bar: 180 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein
These chocolate bars are available in a variety of flavors, and Shapiro deems them "delicious."
"All organic with simple and whole ingredients that make them paleo- and vegan-friendly," Shapiro notes.
20. HIPPEAS Organic Chickpea Puffs, Vegan White Cheddar
Nutrition facts per 1 ounce: 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar and 4 grams of protein
"These snacks hit the spot when I want something crunchy and cheese, but without the dairy," Manaker says. They provide fiber and protein but are low in calories. "The organic puffs are also vegan, gluten-free and don't contain peanuts, tree nuts or soy," she says.
21. Skinny Pop Popcorn
Nutrition facts per 3 3/4 cup: 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein
"I am a huge advocate of popcorn as a snack since it is rich in fiber and antioxidants," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. Skinny Pop offers popcorn in its natural form, without a lot of additional ingredients, Palinski-Wade says.
22. KIND Mini Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Bars
Nutrition facts per bar: 100 calories, 7 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein
When you're on the go, KIND mini bars are a relief from hunger pangs, Manaker says. "I always buy these mini bars when I go on a Whole Foods run," she says — this 100-calorie snack has 3 grams of protein. That's "just enough to help me keep going when I don't have time to stop and eat," Manaker adds.
23. Real Food From the Ground Up Cauliflower Cheddar Stalks
Nutrition facts per 24 stalks: 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein
"This light and crispy puffed snack is made with real cauliflower and other plant-based ingredients," Manaker says — and it's delicious, she notes. It's free from fillers and both vegan and gluten-free, she says.
24. Mary's Gone Crackers
Nutrition facts per 12 crackers: 140 calories, 4 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 4 grams of protein
These crackers are filled with whole grains and seeds — you can choose from a variety of flavors. "They provide a satisfying crunch, crave your salty needs and provide a decent amount of nutrition per serving making them a perfect snack on their own or with avocado, cheese, nut butter or soup," Shapiro says.
25. Simple Mills Almond Flour Cracker
Nutrition facts per 17 crackers: 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein
This is another RD-recommended cracker option. "I love how these crackers are made with almond flour to help boost the protein content while reducing intake of refined carbohydrates," Palinski-Wade says. Pair them with cheese, fruit, nut butter or dip them in hummus.
26. Lily's Extremely Dark Chocolate Bar
Nutrition facts per ounce: 150 calories, 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein
"These are a delicious way to satisfy a sweet craving without the added sugars," Palinski-Wade says. Along with snacking on the chocolate on its own, she suggests adding them to homemade trail mix or melting them to add to other snacks or baked goods.
27. Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
Nutrition facts per 8 ounces: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 34 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein
This juice is a staple for Manaker. It has natural antioxidants without added sugar, she notes. "I use this juice in salad dressing recipes, in my smoothies and as a satisfying drink simply on its own," Manaker says.
Dairy and Dairy Alternatives
28. 365 Unsweetened Almond Milk
Nutrition facts per 1 cup: 40 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugar and 1 gram of protein
This product is free from added sugars and made without carrageenan (a food additive), says Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition. She also likes that it's at a manageable price point and shelf-stable — that means you can stock up, without taking up space in your fridge.
"This product is perfect for smoothies or to add to coffee and oatmeal," Shapiro says.
29. Kite Hill Yogurt
Nutrition facts per 3/4 cup: 140 calories, 10 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 4 grams of protein
Moskovitz picks up products from Kite Hill, which makes dairy-free alternatives, including Almond Milk Yogurt. "The yogurt is entirely vegan, made from almonds, and also provides valuable live and active cultures for a healthier digestive system," Moskovitz says.
30. Good Culture Organic Whole Milk Classic Cottage Cheese
Nutrition facts per container: 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar and 19 grams of protein
"Good Culture organic cottage cheese provides an easy source of protein and gut-friendly probiotics," Moskovitz says. You can top it with fruit and nuts or spoon it out over veggies for quick meals, she suggests.
31. Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa & Brown Rice With Garlic
Nutrition facts per pouch: 410 calories, 6 grams of fat, 80 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 9 grams of protein
Seeds of Change offers a variety of rice blends, which Moskovitz, who is a partner of the brand, describes as a "great side and meal starter." This particular variety has 5 grams of fiber per serving and is an easy companion to a protein and vegetable.
32. Cali'flour Plain Cauliflower Pizza Crusts
Nutrition facts per 1/3 crust: 90 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of protein
Burgess snags a package of these crusts each time she's at Whole Foods. "These frozen flatbreads are made from just a few simple ingredients — fresh cauliflower, mozzarella and egg whites," she says.
Burgess suggests topping the crust with your favorite tomato sauce and sliced veggies for a meal that's full of nutrients.
Nutrition facts vary.
Whole Foods has "an abundance of pulse varieties," Manaker says — that includes dried pulses in the bulk section, canned beans and pulse-based foods, such as hummus, pasta and more.
"These plant-based protein sources are super affordable and nutritious, making them a pantry staple for all sorts of dishes," she says.
34. Teton Waters Ranch Sausage
Nutrition facts per 2 ounces: 130 calories, 11 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein
Burgess particularly likes the Teton Waters Ranch rope sausages, although Whole Foods sells several sausages from this quality brand.
"What makes these sausages different from the rest is they are 100 percent grass-fed, allowing it to have more healthy omega-3 fats," Burgess says. She also appreciates their short ingredients list, with all pronounceable items. "Try slicing and pairing with roasted vegetables and quinoa for the easiest meal prep," she says.
35. Shredded Vegetables
Nutrition facts vary.
Whole Foods has a well-filled produce aisle. You can buy fresh vegetables as-is, but there are also plenty of semi-prepped options, too. "I also love to purchase shredded carrots and cabbage for easy incorporation into my weeknight cooking," Feller says.