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9 tips for healthier grocery shopping
Walking into a grocery store now can be super overwhelming with EVERYTHING being labeled natural or organic and with kids in the picture you want to get in and out as fast as possible. Does that mean you just grab some quick food and get going? Nope! It’s very important to shop healthy and not just quick. There are so many gimmicks out there that can make you believe something is healthy or good for you when really it is not.
Here are some tips you can follow when shopping:
1. 1 is not the default serving size
Products are labeled to make the consumer think they are getting fewer calories than they really are. Almost all labels have the nutrients on a per serving basis but one thing you ALWAYS need to check for is the “serving size” and “servings per container” lines. If you grab a bag of candy that says only 100 calories per serving but the bag has 4 servings, guess what that is actually 400 calories.
2. Don’t need a novel to read for the ingredients list
If the ingredients list on the food label takes you a while to read, put it back because there is a high chance that the majority of those ingredients include bad sugars and chemical additives that may enhance the food to last longer or taste better but definitely provides no positive health benefit to you. These additives may not harm your body but it’s not adding any nutritional value to your diet so why put it in your body.
3. What does “organic” mean?
Doesn’t it seem like EVERYTHING is organic these days? What does that mean? Products that have an organic label means it has been earned through a certification process, and it means the producer adhered to a strict set of rules and procedures. For organic fruits and vegetables, U.S. Department of Agriculture rules say that they must be grown without any of these things: genetically modified seeds, fertilizers made from chemicals or sewage sludge, chemical pesticides or herbicides, and irradiation. Growers are also required to keep records and present them upon demand by accredited inspectors. Foods may also be labeled “100 percent organic,” “organic” (95 to 99 percent organic), “made with organic ingredients” (74 to 94 percent organic), or, for organic content of lesser amount, the specific organic ingredients may be listed. (http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO) On meat, the organic seal means the animals may be fed only certified organic feed and no by-products of other animals. The animals can’t be given hormones or antibiotics. They must be allowed access to the outdoors and treated humanely. Just like the vegetables and dairy, organic farms must keep records and be inspected by accredited inspectors.
4. Whole wheat vs Whole Grain
Don’t assume anything whole wheat is the nutritious way to go. When buying wheat products, make sure the first ingredient is whole grain not whole wheat.
5. Stay away from MSG foods
Read through all the ingredients because MSG may be at the bottom of the list. MSG (monosodium glutamate) can also be listed under other names such as hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate. MSG is a synthetic version of the substance umami, as it is known in Japan, which occurs naturally in some foods, including Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and mushrooms. MSG, widely used in Asian cooking, has been linked to headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.
6. The NO Cholesterol label
Cholesterol is a fat that occurs only in animal products (meat, fish, eggs, milk, and butter, for instance). Producers know that people care about their cholesterol levels and they know that most people probably have forgotten or never knew that plants don’t contain any. Think about it, oils are obviously fats, so the makers think you’ll be reassured to see that there’s no cholesterol in the corn oil, safflower oil, or olive oil. Since these are plant products you know they won’t have any contain cholesterol.
7. Organic and Natural…Which is better or is the same?
Most people probably think organic and natural are the same but guess what..it’s NOT. Companies advertise it so it is the same but the word “natural” on products is definitely not as trustworthy as organic. Unlike organic products that have FDA regulations, there is no single set of requirements for products claiming to be natural even though labels are are supposed to be accurate. Here is a good example: If you go out and buy a packet of chicken and it claims to be “natural” because the chicken was not fed antibiotics or hormones, the label should say that and it should be true. (Yup I said SHOULD not IS) Farmers or food companies that use the “natural” label are not required to have inspections as a condition of using the label. You just have to take their word for it. Scary huh!
8. Cereals can be deceiving
“High Fiber, No Cholesterol, Made With Whole Grain, Lightly Sweetened” Would that make you buy the cereal? For most people YES, but again you need to go right to the label and find out what is really in there. Look for a short list of ingredients, the amount of servings and whole grain as the first ingredient. Make sure it has 0 grams of added sugar because you can always add your own. Things you should look for in a cereal are high fiber which means least 10% fiber per serving size. Avoid cereals that contain things that are partially hydrogenated. This indicates that they contain trans fats or that have a lot of added sugar. A little note to remember, avoid cereals with over 9% fat, over 27% sugar (or 8g per 30g serving) and over 180mg of sodium per 30g serving.
9. Water is not considered a good ingredient
Its so easy to pick up a can of soup when you don’t have time to make dinner but beware because water is the secret ingredient in prepared foods. Water has no taste and if it is the first thing on the list of ingredients, they have to add a ton of other stuff to make it taste good which means a long list of additives. Foods that have a lot of water include soups, canned pastas, and salad dressings. Water is a cheap ingredient so the food industry loves to use it.