You’ve heard it all before, “shop the perimeter of the store, fresh is best, and read your labels.” This is all true; however, in my experience, shoppers need more specifics to enable them to make better choices. It helps to do some simple homework for yourself to make the best decision for you and your family.
1. Check out the ingredients. Ingredients are listed by weight. Whatever the product has the most of is listed first. If you have food allergies, you especially need to read this.
2. “Made with Whole Grains” doesn’t make it healthy. While many products have “made with whole grains” on the box, it may just have a teaspoon of whole grains. Look for the Whole Grain Council Stamp. They require products that carry their stamp to have at least 8 grams of whole grains, which is half of a serving. They also have a 100% whole grain stamp if a product’s grains are whole with a minimum of 16 grams of whole grain per serving. The Whole Grain Council encourages 48 grams of whole grains a day.
3. Natural is not a health claim. Many companies are making their products better by returning to simple ingredients. However, the FDA does not recognize natural as a health claim.
4. Don’t focus on the % DV (Daily Values) on the food label. While this is a great tool, it is intended for someone on a 2000 calorie diet. Instead focus on the grams per serving.
5. Change your “low-fat” terminology. Choosing low-fat animal products, like dairy and lean meats is great. When choosing lower fat processed products like cookies, crackers, or salad dressings, compare the sodium, sugar, and fat content. Sometimes, a little bit of the original version isn’t so bad.
6. Sugar free doesn’t mean carbohydrate free. Sugar free breads and cookies still have carbohydrate. This is especially important for people trying to manage their blood sugar. Look for grams of total carbohydrate per serving instead of sugars if you are counting carbs.
7. Read the labels, even if it has a nutrition rating score. Nuval, Guiding Stars, Nutrition IQ, etc. are all valuable tools to utilize to make healthy shopping easy. Don’t quit reading ingredient and food labels to make sure the product is the best choice for you.