Probably one of the more difficult tasks for the average person is grocery shopping! Grocery shopping is to be contrasted with what I call “impulse grocering”, the habit that often doubles the amount of money we spend at a trip to the store. Personally, I find it completely confusing to have to go to the store and look through 35 loafs of bread decoding the marketing and advertisements to find something that’s worth eating!
Throw on top of that the 56 options of ice cream, and 39 choices of “juice drink” not to mention soups, cereals and frozen dinners. When choosing packaged foods at the grocery store there are a few tricks to help you narrow down your choices. Hopefully these will help you make smart purchases the next time you hit the grocery store.
The Packaged Food
- DON’T BELIEVE THE PACKAGING! There are many claims on the box or wrapper of a food item. First off, if there is a box or wrapper, then someone is making lots of money on that food. Do you think their objective with the packaging is to help you make a healthy choice? NO! They just want to get your buck! Just because something is written on the outside doesn’t make it true!
- Look at the ingredient list. There is nothing that can take the place of knowing the facts on a food item. If there are a lot of ingredients that you don’t recognize, it’s probably not a good choice!
- Choose food for health. The purpose of eating is to NOURISH your body. Eating does provide enjoyment, but that shouldn’t be your primary reason for eating! Look for things in the ingredient list that promote health. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lowfat dairy and healthy fats. If the food item does not contain mostly these ingredients, think again about buying it!
- Refer to the nutrition facts for clarification. Maybe you look at the ingredient list and see something on there that you’re not sure about. We’ll use syrup for an example. Any variety of syrup might be on the ingredients to sweeten a product. To know how much is in there, you can look at sugar on the food label. (As a side note 4 g of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar).
- Check the serving size. The most important thing to check on the nutrition facts label is Serving Size. Then ask yourself how many servings you usually eat. For example. Most people eat 2-3 servings of ice cream at a time. Some candy bars are 2-3 servings. For drinks, 8 oz. is a serving, so the 20 oz. bottle is 2.5 servings. Once the item is in your house, it’s not easy to control the serving size; maybe the ice cream is better off at the store!
The first thing you can do with this list is actually check out the foods in your pantry and freezer right now. You might find yourself throwing some of those things away!
Great post Julie! One question I’ve had while looking at labels is …. I know partially hydrogenated oils are horrible. What about just plain ol’ hydrogenated oils? Are they better than, worse than, or the same as partially hydrogenated? Thanks!
That’s an interesting question! Experts traditionally caution against partially hydrogenated because it was a sign of trans fat in the product. However, now that trans fat is on the nutrition facts label it’s a different story. Hydrogenated fat and partially hydrogenated fats are all chemically processed fats.
If you’re avoiding trans fat, you can find that on the label. Personally, I wouldn’t eat it if the hydrogenated fat was one of the first few ingredients. If it’s further down on the list you probably don’t have to worry about it as much because there’s less of it. Always look for saturated and trans fat on the label though.