LA Galaxy Performance Blog presented by Herbalife

High Performance Grocery Shopping Tips for Athletes | LA Galaxy Performance Blog presented by Herbalife


Herbalife is the sports nutrition and presenting partner for the LA Galaxy. Registered Dietitians at Herbalife work closely with the LA Galaxy technical staff to make sure we are maximizing their nutrition to support performance goals.

Imagine that you are about to cook dinner for yourself after a long training session. You went to the grocery store yesterday, so you assume you have everything you need. But when you begin to look in your refrigerator and pantry, you notice one of the following situations…

  1. You don’t have enough of an ingredient available.
  2. Somehow you bought pasta and garden vegetables, but forgot the pasta sauce and your protein for your favorite pasta dish.
  3. You realize that you spent $300 on a week’s worth of groceries and have a cabinet full of impulsive purchases, but nothing can be combined to make a well-balanced Performance Plate.

We’ve all been in these situations before, but luckily they are preventable. Knowing and following the tips outlined below can help you to avoid these potential problems so you can properly fuel and refuel, getting you one step closer to meeting your performance goals.

1. Have a Plan of Attack

Similar to your coach having a plan of attack before a match begins, you should have a plan before you enter the grocery store. What are your goals with this shopping trip? What kinds of foods do you want to prioritize? Are you meal prepping for the week in advance, or are you cooking individual meals daily? Knowing your goal for your shopping trip can help you cut down on impulse buys that do not serve you in meeting your performance goals.

Another common obstacle people run into while grocery shopping is shopping on an empty stomach. Be sure to eat before entering the store - whether this is a snack or a full meal is dependent on your day’s fueling timeline. Shopping when you are hungry can also leave you more prone to grabbing items that will not ultimately serve your goals.

Finally, think of your shopping cart in the same way you would your Performance Plate. With each shopping trip, you should focus on acquiring a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, fats, and hydration to build your performance plates. Then, you will use all of these components in different combinations to design your meal plan, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

2. Build Your High-Performance Shopping List

Not only should you have a general plan of attack before entering the grocery store, you can also streamline your grocery shopping experience by crafting your shopping list in advance. As mentioned above, you can use your Performance Plate components to help plan a day’s, a few days’, a week’s, or even an entire month’s meal plan.

Remember, each meal and snack should follow your Performance Plate and training schedule. You want protein for power and strength, carbs for energy, and colorful fruits and vegetables for those necessary vitamins and minerals to support and protect. Add in beneficial fats and a few hydration options to fully round out your meal plan.

Once you have decided on the meals and snacks you plan on eating for the week, backtrack and list the ingredients you will need to actually prepare these meals. Next, double check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to ensure you don’t already have these items. Double checking your list against your stock allows you to prevent unnecessary food waste due to diminishing freshness, reduced quality, and passing expiration dates.

Choose the method or form of a list that best suits you: hand-written or virtual. If you lean more high tech, you can use various smart phone applications, including your notes taking app, to list all of the items you need to purchase in your shopping trip. If your app allows you to check off or cross out items, this is a bonus, because it becomes more clear which items are still missing as you make your way through the store.

In summary, plan your meals, check your current food storage, make a shopping list of what you need to purchase that you will actually use, and finally double check that these foods will help you reach your health, nutrition, and performance goals as an athlete. Following these steps makes your experience more mindful than impulsive.

How to Build Your Shopping List Using the Performance Plate Method


  • Try a minimum of 3-4 different lean protein options for variety in each meal.
  • Choose lean and extra-lean cuts of poultry or meat with less marbling (fat) or ground meats/poultry.
  • Include fatty omega-3-rich fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines twice per week to help support recovery.
  • Whole eggs or egg whites in the carton.
  • Some convenience options include nitrate-free deli meats, frozen pre-cooked lean meats, tuna packed in water, and beef jerky.
  • Include plant-based proteins such as tofu, soymilk, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, and seeds.
  • Dairy products like fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and milk are rich in protein as well as calcium to preserve both your muscles and bones at the same time.


  • Look for higher fiber whole grains (such as oatmeal, quinoa, barley, whole wheat, popcorn, wild rice) or starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash) for complex carbohydrates.
  • For your breads, bagels, pastas, etc., look for “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the label, and ensure that 100% whole grain/wheat is the first ingredient.
  • If shopping for pre-training or pre-match, opt for easy-to-digest, lower fiber options including white bread, rice, pasta, crackers, cereals, pretzels, fruit cups, or granola bars.
  • Spice up your meals to add both flavor and antioxidants into your meal plan using fresh or dried herbs and spices.
  • Look for jams and jellies made with 100% fruit and no added sugars or sweeteners.

Fruits and Veggies

  • Choose a minimum of 3 to 5 fruits and vegetables, based on your personal preferences and your week’s menu, and get enough to have some with each meal and snack.
  • Aim for different colors to maximize variety in phytonutrient intake (eat the rainbow!).
  • Choose fresh and frozen when possible, and canned when convenience is needed (i.e., pasta sauce, tomato paste, low sodium soups and broths.
  • Look up which fruits and vegetables are local and in season. These will taste the freshest and also be cheaper than the imported, not-in-season alternatives.

Beneficial Fats

  • Choose olive oil or avocado oil, and use butter sparingly to keep saturated fat intake low
  • Avocados, nuts, and seeds are some more sources of beneficial fats
  • Opt for olive oil based dressings and sauces over creamy mayo-based dressings for a dose of beneficial fats, and check the labels to stick to low-fat options to reduce extra calories
  • Look for nut butters made only with nuts and salt to avoid overconsumption of hydrogenated oils
  • Hummus is a source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and beneficial fats, and goes great with veggies for dipping as a snack or as a sandwich spread during lunch


  • Choose as many options as you please!
  • Choose sparkling waters or unsweetened herbal teas over sugary sodas
  • 100% fruit juice can be used for replenishing glycogen stores after a workout or to supply you with quick digesting energy prior to a training session or match
  • Low-fat milk is a good hydration source while also supplying you with protein, calcium, and other nutrients

Once you’ve chosen all of your Performance Plate components, you can organize them into sections based on where you can typically find them in the grocery store. I personally like diving my grocery list into sections such as: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat/seafood, frozen, baking aisle, bread aisle, breakfast aisle, snacks, etc. Organize your list in the way that works best for you!

3. Shop the Perimeter First

It is likely that you have heard this advice before: shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Think about your local shop… Most stores have similar layouts, with most whole foods (produce, meats, fish, dairy, etc.) lining the exterior aisles and sections. Prioritize these fresh, whole foods before stocking your cart in the interior aisles where most packaged, processed foods exist.

This does not mean that the interior aisles are a no-go. Make educated choices based on your goal-informed shopping list. Note that the (often central) frozen aisle can be a great source of nutritious flash-frozen produce, pre-cooked proteins and grains, and more that will not spoil as quickly as their fresh counterparts. Frozen fruits, for example, also add a nice texture to blended smoothies.

You will also typically find other nutritious, but more shelf-stable, foods like dried beans and grains in these interior aisles. Canned foods can be a good, convenient meal prep option as well. For canned veggies, broths, and sauces, be sure to check the label for no added sodium or low sodium. As for canned fruits, opt for those canned in their own juices or in water, rather than in syrup.

4. Read Nutrition Labels to Make Informed Choices

Consider the front of any food package to be marketing designed to sell you on a product. Instead of “judging a book by its cover,” so to speak… turn the package around and find the Nutrition label to help you make a more educated decision, especially if deciding between two similar items.

Nutrition Facts panels and ingredients lists are there to educate you as the consumer about what exactly you are eating. This label shows you the serving size, macronutrient breakdown, some vitamin and mineral content, along with the ingredients list.

Start with the serving information. Check to see how many servings are in the package itself, sometimes it may shock you. Bear in mind that the serving sizes listed are not hard and fast rules about the amount you should be eating… but rather these are based on the “typical” amount that is eaten in one sitting. This is why serving sizes can change over time - they are meant to better reflect typical consumption. Feel free to quarter, halve, double, or triple a serving if it serves your performance goals.

Next, look at the nutrient breakdown per serving. Check out the total calorie content along with the total grams of protein, carbs, and fat. Make sure saturated fat is less than 5g. If following a more strict nutrition plan, this information can help you really nail down how big of a serving you choose to consume at a given time, or it could even inform you to backtrack and choose an alternative product. Monitor the fiber content and choose items with a decent amount of fiber (>3-5g) items when not too close to training sessions, and lower fiber when training is within the hour.

Finally, look at the ingredients list. This is organized in descending order by weight, meaning that the highest weight/largest used ingredient is listed first. Knowing the ingredients can help you decide between similar products and alerts you to any potential allergens. If you have a food allergy, you are likely very familiar with searching for your potential allergens in bold font.

5. Stick to Your Budget

Many athletes live their lives on the go, which makes pre-cut produce, hard boiled eggs, and other pre-prepared foods extremely convenient. Purchasing some pre-prepped foods allows you to save time in the kitchen and can make eating healthy more convenient. The flipside is that this convenience often comes at a cost.

If you are both low on extra time and on a budget, prioritize purchasing the convenience items that will save you the most time over the course of the week. Think about which food you eat most often, which food you do not enjoy preparing, which food you would rather have ready to go in a moment’s notice… This answer could be different for everyone.

You can also reduce your grocery bill by opting for store brands over name brands. Store brands are cheaper partially because there is no advertising behind the product. In this sense, you do not have to pay for the name itself since you are already shopping at the store. Store brands are just as nutritious as name brands. To be 100% sure, check the labels and compare. You will often see the main or only difference is the price.

Check your local grocery store ads to see the weekly specials and discounts before you head into the store. You can even mock “shop” by perusing the ads before ever entering the store by circling the deals you want to make sure you buy, then writing them down in your shopping list. These newspaper ads also house coupons, which you can clip and bring along with you to save even more money at the register.

There are also many cash-back shopping apps that allow you to scan your receipt and the food’s barcode to prove you purchased certain items. Be sure to look at these items with cash back deals if you want to save even more.

Finally, just because something is on sale does not mean you need to buy it, and just because something you need is on sale doesn’t mean you need five or six of them. Many people feel tempted to stockpile items the moment they go on sale, but keep in mind the potential waste this can cause. Buying an item in surplus at a discount is no longer cheaper if you never eat it and it ends up in the garbage later... Instead of throwing money away, stick to your plan and your shopping list to prevent feeling like there are holes in your wallet and wondering where your hard-earned cash went.