It is common for people to drop grocery products into their trolleys out of habit, without arming themselves with the information required to determine if their choice was the best one for their body, or just for their taste buds! So many of us grocery shop blindly and wonder why our health is compromised. Supermarkets are clever little manipulators. They structure their products to influence your “choices”. Manufacturers pay for shelf positioning, so those who pay the most get their products placed in the most convenient line of sight for consumers … eye level. The healthier more nourishing and nutritious choices are usually harder to find, and if you aren’t specifically looking for them, they would be easy to miss. And don’t get me started on how they strategically place chocolates and chips at the checkouts to tempt you and your children whilst you are waiting in line! So how do you make healthier shopping choices? Here are some basics to guide you.
- Get into the habit of comparing items and identify healthier options (see below).
- Read & understand the nutritional panel. The lowest calories are not always the healthiest options. Check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMGUmcveQeg
- Examine the ingredients list. The order of ingredient represents its amount in the product, i.e. if sugar is listed as the first ingredient, then sugar is the main ingredient in the product. This would be a good reason for returning that item back to the shelf! Look for products that contain healthier ingredients and stay away from those E numbers as much as possible. (There are great apps for your phones that help you identify those confusing E numbers so this is something I recommend).
- Allow more time on your first few shops to study the products.
- Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. You will tend to make less healthier choices.
- Compare 100g not per serve. Comparing one product with a 50g serving to another with a 35g serve can be easily misleading.
- Total energy is important but low HI (Human Intervention) is the most significant factor (meaning the product will be more nutrient rich). Wean yourself off all the processed gunk that is clogging up your body and preventing it from performing at its best. Low energy ≠ healthiest as stated earlier. Use the ingredients list to help you determine this. It is more informative than the nutritional panel.
- Don’t focus too much on protein or total carbohydrates at first. Gradually work these in later when you are more comfortable with everything else.
- If plant origin – then ↑ fibre. It is recommended that we have 30-40g per day but this is thought by some dietitians as being too low. Our ancestors were having up to ten times that amount!
- ↓ sugar (but also be mindful of artificial sweeteners which can have their own negative effects on health).
- ↓ salt. Sodium is necessary. It is an electrolyte and essential for electrical activity through the body (such as muscle contraction, including the heart). But so many processed foods are swimming in the stuff. The American Heart Association recommends that adults stay under 1,500mg per day and never take in more than 2,300mg per day. To put this into perspective, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt contains 562mg sodium.
I would like to finish by asking you to ponder the following statement: “The absence of conclusive data demonstrating harmful side effects does NOT mean the product is safe!” As we are still learning about the long term effects of certain food products in our daily diet, proceed with caution and attempt to eat as close to nature as possible. No diet is best for every single person on the planet. Whether you are a paleo, vegetarian, vegan…eat according to what suits YOUR body best and make adjustments accordingly. Tribes throughout history have flourished on very different diets so to think one is the absolute best for all is just ludicrous. The one constant similarity is that they have all eaten from nature. I hope you take the time deserved to involve yourself in healthier grocery shopping. Your body needs you to pay attention. Remember that the absence of disease is not health, so don’t wait for symptoms of illness before you change your behaviour. Prevention is better than cure and we are supposed to be adults who act responsibly … but are we? Your children are learning from you. Do not “bless” them with a shorter lifespan riddled with disease, because that is the current reality due to increasing sedentary lifestyle and the landscape of food that they have grown up eating. Only YOU can change this! Take back control and reap the benefits.