Struggle to make healthy food choices at the supermarket? Dr Rupy Aujla is here to help

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So often as you step foot in the supermarket, your best-laid plans to eat healthily and cheaply go astray. Who hasn’t been hypnotised by a special offer on their favourite flavour of Tyrrells or that delicious rosé, gleaming seductively in the chiller? Dr Rupy Aujla, that’s who. There’s never an unexpected item in the bagging area when he hits Waitrose because the London GP/emergency medicine doctor and author of four cookbooks (including Cooks and Doctor’s Kitchen) is a total ninja when it comes to grocery shopping.

A master of delicious, diverse and healthy recipes that you can whip up after a long day at work (he works long hours himself), he advises that you home in on healthy, good-value ingredients that’ll work across a range of dishes. “Once you go beyond the fruit and veg aisle, you need to learn to navigate the complex world of what’s healthy and what isn’t and that requires carefully reading the labels,” he says. “So try not to shop at the end of the day when you’re tired, go earlier on when you’re fresh. Look at the nutritional values per 100g. Ideally, you want things that have at least 15g of fibre and less than 10g of sugar.” Granola is something that often trips up people, he says – even the ones that are marketed as healthy are usually packed with added sugars.

So let’s put that back on the shelf – instead here are 10 items that you will always find in Dr Rupy’s basket, plus some recipe inspiration for how to use them.

Frozen mixed berries

“I always head straight to the frozen aisle, which doesn’t tend to get much love but it’s key to healthy shopping on a budget. Mixed berries tend to be British and they’re frozen at source during the summer, making them much cheaper (and with fewer air miles) than buying fresh when they’re not in season. I use them in porridge, in crumbles and in granita. Berries are lower in natural sugars than tropical fruits such as mango, kiwi or grapes.

Ready-cooked Puy lentils

“These packs of lentils are so quick, cheap and useful – 45 seconds in the microwave or you can eat them cold. I chuck them into most things including salads and casseroles. You can of course cook lentils from scratch and keep them in an air-tight container for three days but that takes more time.

Gochujang Korean chilli paste

“If you haven’t tried this Korean chilli paste, you must. Once a week, my wife and I have gochujang salmon for dinner – we just baste salmon chunks in it and put it in the air fryer. It’s sweet and tangy with a great fermented aftertaste. I also use it to make a sticky red kidney bean stew – you make a sauce with soy sauce, a bit of lime and a bit of cornflour to thicken it.

Shelled hemp seeds

“These are a bit boujie at around £5 for 200g but I promise they are worth the extra investment because of their health benefits. They are high in protein and they have a good fatty acid profile so are potentially anti-inflammatory. They’re very versatile - I use them as a salad topper, or use them to bulk up stews or my morning porridge. You can also put them in smoothies.

Frozen spinach

“This is one of the best food shopping hacks I have. If you buy a fresh bag of spinach, it wilts to almost nothing when you cook it. But you get so much more value for money with frozen spinach because it’s been blanched and compressed into little bricks. I thaw it and mix it with beans – cannellini, say – and throw in a bit of feta and some spice, such as za’atar. You can just warm it through as a simple stew or add some filo pastry for a pie or parcel. Frozen spinach is also great to put into a curry. While you’re buying this, grab some frozen peas, cauliflower, broccoli and green beans too. Add spices and noodles and you’ve got a quick, easy dinner.

Jarred chickpeas

“OK, these are more expensive than tins but they are worth the extra. If you’re going to blend them into a humous, then a tin is fine but if you’re going to eat them whole in a salad or curry, grab a glass jar. The flavour and the texture is so much better.

Frozen fillet of white fish

“Supermarket frozen fish is really underrated – you’re so much less likely to waste it if it’s frozen, as you have to remember to use up fresh fish ASAP. Just put a tiny bit of oil and water into a pan, add the fish, cover and steam. Then make an awesome dressing – a chilli tahini, say – and serve with steamed veg or salad. Alternatively thaw it before you go to work and then throw it into a quick stir fry in the evening.

Cacao powder

“This is 100% cocoa beans blended into a powder - it’s a very fine, plant-based protein with the full suite of amino acids. The obvious uses are to add a chocolate-y kick to sweet dishes like mousse or porridge but I’m also a fan of using it to make a Mexican mole sauce. Add to some chilli and cumin and coat black beans with it, or put it on fish or chicken.

Tinned sardines (in olive oil)

“I’m really into canned fish like sardines, anchovies and herring. I’ll put sardines on fresh tomatoes with a bit of watercress, some nuts and a bit of cheese and eat that for breakfast. These sardines are very flavoursome so a little goes a long way. Got for the best quality ones you can afford and ideally in extra virgin olive oil. They are high in omega 3s and olive oil is full of plant chemicals that are very good for heart health.

Dark chocolate

“I eat a lot of dark chocolate, it’s one of my vices. A typical snack would be chopped apple, dark chocolate and peanut butter on the side. It’s got to be at least 75% - I’m a big fan of Waitrose’s single origin range. Do I ever slip any Mars Bars into the basket? No, I can’t say I do!

Cooks by Dr Rupy Aujla (£22, Ebury Press) is out now. Make Dr Rupy’s Singaporean Chicken recipe and Spicy Halloumi Bake recipe.