Now that you’re out of the “fresh food” area of the grocery store you’re entering dangerous territory. It’s so easy to get pulled in by fancy packaging and great sales.
And so many packages now claim benefits like “low-fat”, “reduced-calories” and “sugar-free” — how do you make sense of it all?
The FDA has some pretty stringent guidelines regulating the terms “free”, “low” and “reduced” or “less” as they apply to food labels. Specifically the FDA looks at sugar, sodium, calories, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
In order to put “reduced” on the label, the product must have at least 25% less sugar, sodium or other regulated content, “per amount than an appropriate reference food”. Reference food generally means the “original” version of the same food.
And while that does sound like a great deal, take into consideration the rest of the label. If a manufacturer reduces the fat, are they increasing something else? Be careful not to go into sugar over-load if you’re only watching your sodium intake.
One of the best options overall, is to just skip most of the inside aisles of the grocery store. Even when you think you may be choosing a healthier option, like oatmeal raisin cookies over chocolate chip — are you really?
The average commercially prepared oatmeal raisin has only minimal differences in nutrient content than the average chocolate chip cookie. So what’s your best option?
Fruit. Or vegetables.
So stay out of the cookie aisle, you aren’t doing anything good for your health by going down it. The same applies to most cereals. Unless you’re sticking to the plain, uncoated with no extras cereals you’re only adding more unnecessary sugar and sodium to your diet.
Try some quick rolled oats (not packages instant oatmeal, but real instant oats) — add some berries and a few nuts and you have a delicious, filing breakfast that’s also good for you! You’ll get all the nutrients from the berries and nuts, and the combination with the granola will help keep your pipes clean.
If you still have to head into some of the inner aisles of your grocery store — like the pasta aisle for example — remember what your healthy options are. Whole wheat pasta should always be your first choice. And as for those pre-made sauces — skip them! Use olive oil and some fresh herbs instead.
The freezer aisle is safe if you’re looking for frozen vegetables. But head right past those microwave dinners and frozen pizzas. You can still indulge in pizza from time to time, but why not make your own? You can opt for a whole wheat crust, use less sauce — or skip the tomato sauce and go with pesto. Use chicken instead of greasy sausage, goat cheese instead of mozzarella and add some spinach for iron and fiber. Not only do you now have a gourmet pizza, it’s also a much healthier option.
The next time you do your grocery shopping remember to stick to the outside aisles. Don’t browse the inner aisles just because you can, you’ll only end up with unnecessary extras in your cart that aren’t doing anything but potentially adding to your health problems.
And remember that delicious oatmeal with berries and nuts I mentioned earlier? Here’s a quick recipe for you:
Oatmeal with Cranberry Ingredients: — 1 3/4 c. low-fat milk — 1 1/4 c. uncooked quick oats — 1/4 c. dried cranberries — 1/4 c. slivered almonds
Prep: 1. On medium heat in a saucepan, pour in milk. When it reaches a milk boil, stir in oats and cranberries.
2. After one minute, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir for one minute.
3. Oatmeal should be thick and milk should no longer be visible before you take it off the stove.
4. Cover pan with lid, and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Sprinkle on almonds before serving.
Makes 2 servings.