A nutritionist’s tips for a gut-healthy weekly food shop

A nutritionist’s tips for a gut-healthy weekly food shop

Make your weekly shop healthy, gut-friendly, easier and more delicious with Nutritionist Hannah Truman's top tips...

If you want to improve your overall health, improving your gut health is one of the first things you should look at. You can read about the importance of gut health and my top tips for improving it, here. There are many ways to improve your gut health, but making healthier choices when it comes to the foods you eat is a good place to start, and healthier food choices start in the supermarket!

This list may seem extensive but by choosing a few items from each section, you are setting yourself up for success when it comes to creating healthy and nutritionally-balanced meals and snacks for you and anyone else you may be cooking for. Remember, when it comes to health, especially gut health, variety is key, so try to avoid buying the same items every week. Approximate serving and portion recommendations have been provided to help you plan your shopping list.

Seasonal fruit and vegetables

Starchy and non-starchy vegetables provide nutrients that are required for good gut health and overall health and should make up the bulk of your diet (aim for 8-10 servings per day. 1 serving = 1 cup raw vegetables or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables).

  • Non-starchy vegetables including green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, rocket and watercress, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, and allium vegetables such as onion, garlic and shallots, and mushrooms
  • Starchy vegetables including potatoes, beetroot, carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, parsnips and turnips. As a rough guide, half of your plate should be made up of non-starchy vegetables and a quarter of your plate should be made up of starchy vegetables.
  • Seasonal fruit that is locally grown and seasonal as far as possible will provide the most benefits for digestive and overall health. Aim for 2-3 servings of fruit per day (1 serving of fruit is 1 piece of fruit or 1/2 a cup of berries). Stewed apples with no added sugar are particularly good for gut health thanks to high pectin content and can be added to porridge, pancakes and bakes.

Plant-based protein

Adequate protein is essential for gut health and overall health. For most people, the bulk of their protein intake should come from fibre-rich plant sources to enhance and regulate gut health. Aim for 25-30g serving (or a palm-sized amount) of protein with each main meal as well as 1-2 protein rich snacks per day.

  • Beans and pulses to make into chillis, blend up into soups or make into veggie burgers. If you eat meat, adding beans and pulses to meat dishes is a great way to increase fibre content and aid digestion, for example, lentil and beef bolognese or chicken and black bean fajitas.
  • Organic fermented soy products (tofu and tempeh) to add to stir-fries, curries etc, or simply fry in a delicious blend of spices.
  • Quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are nutrient-dense, protein-rich pseudo-grains which can be used in place of other grains, for example quinoa salad, buckwheat porridge or amaranth polenta
  • Nuts and seeds provide protein as well as essential fatty acids which have been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the gut.

Meat and fish sources of healthy fats and protein

  • Organic pasture-raised eggs
  • Mackerel, wild caught salmon
  • Organic bone broth
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  • Organic chicken

Healthy fats

  • Nuts and seeds to sprinkle on sweet and savoury dishes, blend up into soups and sauces to add healthy fats, protein and a satisfying creamy texture, or to add to protein balls
  • Nut and seed butter to spread on toast, drizzle onto porridge and pancakes or blend up into dressings, sauces and healthy snacks
  • Good quality oils such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flax seed, and hemp seed oil for cooking, dressings and drizzles. It’s worth doing some research on which oils are best for cooking, which are best to use in dressings and which to avoid. Read more on this topic here.
  • Coconut milk, preferably organic and made from just coconut and water. Many supermarket own-brand products contain stabilisers, emulsifiers and added sugars which can be inflammatory in the gut, they also contain fewer healthy fats (which is what coconuts are so good for!). 
  • Grass-fed ghee (clarified butter) is rich in butyric acid which has been linked with more regular bowel movements, as well as being a rich source of healthy fats. It also has a high smoke point which means it’s perfect for cooking. It has a delicious buttery, salty flavour and is delicious in bulletproof coffee, roasting, frying and, of course, curries. I recommend Happy Butter.

Probiotic-rich foods and drinks

Look for minimally processed, unpasteurised products, without added preservatives or sweeteners.

  • Sauerkraut and Kimchi are my top recommendations for probiotic-rich foods and I recommend The Cultured Collective products. Sauerkraut and kimchi can be mixed through salads, used as a nutrient-rich topping for avocado toast or soup, or added to fritters and veggie burgers. Find more recipes here.
  • Plant-based yoghurt with minimal ingredients, no added sugars or preservatives and preferably containing live cultures. Cocos Organic and Nush are a couple of my favourite brands.
  • Fully fat dairy-based yoghurts (look for organic brands with live cultures and full-fat yoghurt as the only ingredients)
  • Coconut milk kefir and coconut water kefir

*A nutritionist’s note on dairy: whilst dairy may be problematic for some individuals based on underlying health conditions and/or allergies, small amounts of good quality dairy products provide health benefits for most people. In addition to the beneficial bacteria they contain, fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir also provide protein.

Herbs and spices

Not only do they enhance the flavour of food but many of them are known to be
beneficial for gut health by stimulating and enhancing digestive processes as well as nourishing the integrity of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. In Ayurveda (one of the world’s oldest healing systems), many spices are believed to increase Agni (digestive fire), which is particularly important in the cooler months and for individuals who could benefit from improving their digestion (which, is most of us).

  • Ginger
  • Black pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Oregano
  • Fennel
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Bay leaves
  • Peppermint tea
  • DGL liquorice root tea
  • Dandelion root tea

Gut-supportive supplements

I have a food-first approach when it comes to gut health and overall health however supplementation can provide extra support and amplify the beneficial effects of a healthy diet.

  • Good quality probiotics
  • Good quality protein powder. Form Nutrition is my favourite brand
  • Grass-fed / wild-caught collagen, or vegan alternative. I love Ancient & Brave
  • Partially hydrolysed guar gum
  • Good quality greens powder
  • L-glutamine
  • Liquorice root
  • Marshmallow root

Your weekly shop is your opportunity to give yourself the building blocks for healthy, gut-loving meals and snacks throughout the week. A little thought and pre-planning can go a long way but at the same time, leave room for flexibility so you can listen to what your body intuitively wants to eat, be inspired by the seasons and try new things.

Hannah is a holistic nutritionist (BSc) with a special interest in brain health, cognitive function and the scope of nutrition in improving mental health and reducing cognitive decline. Follow Hannah on Instagram for delicious recipes and health tips: https://www.instagram.com/kinderkitchen.co/

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