Exercise makes a big difference in how good we look and feel, but food choices also weigh very heavily into the equation. Most people will tell you they try to eat healthy, and the effort starts with the foods we take home from the grocery. Here’s a good shopping list of what to look for when you go to the store.

Protein is the building block of muscle tissue. The amino acids found in complete protein foods are responsible for rebuilding muscle tissue after the breakdown of exercise. Complete protein foods (foods containing all the essential amino acids) come primarily from dairy and meat. Here are some good recommendations for complete protein foods…

Eggs – One of the fitness industry’s favorite foods is eggs, especially egg whites which represent one of the best low-fat protein foods around. By combining 1-3 whole eggs with several more egg whites, you’ll have a high-protein meal that combines low fat with vitamins and minerals.

White Meat – As with egg whites, chicken and turkey are favorite foods of bodybuilders because they’re complete proteins that are naturally low in fat. Chicken and turkey breasts are both great choices without the skin, and ground turkey can be purchased as lean (8 grams of fat in a 4 oz serving) or extra lean (2 grams of fat per serving).

Red Meat – Although many fitness athletes avoid eating red meat because of the high fat content, beef offers many nutritional benefits. The high amounts of iron, vitamins and minerals found in red meat is often lacking in white meat. By eating lean cuts of beef like round steak, sirloin steak and filet mignon, and keeping the portion sizes small, you can make room for the addition of red meat in any diet.

Fish – Another favorite protein for bodybuilders and fitness athletes is white fish, tilapia and flounder because they keep the calories and fat very low. Tuna is an old staple in the bodybuilding industry and this food is very convenient and cheap to consume daily. Some types of fish contain more fat, but it’s mostly the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fish include salmon, mackerel and sardines. Sample them all for natural protein.

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