Here are some terrific shopping tips from my cookbook Healthy Helpings 800 Fast, Fabulous & Healthy Recipes for the Kosher (or not) Cook
It all starts out in the shopping cart! If it’s not in the cart, it’s not in your kitchen. If it’s not in your kitchen, it’s not going to be in your tummy! So don’t be a dummy and shop smart.
- Don’t grocery shop when hungry!
- You’ll buy too much junk food. (I speak from experience!)
- Make a list and stick to it. Group the items according to the areas where they are found in the supermarket. Try not to give in to temptation. Don’t buy the “trigger foods” that set off a binge!
- Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where fruits, veggies, meats, dairy products and breads are generally found.
- Try not to buy large amounts of processed &/or packaged foods. For maximum nutrition, buy mainly fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. An orange doesn’t need a low fat label!
- The nutritional information should be based on standard (and realistic) serving sizes. After all, who can eat just 1/7th of a package of potato chips, even if they are low fat!
- Look for products with less than 3 grams of fat per serving. Avoid products which contain saturated fats (e.g., palm, palm kernel or coconut oil).
- Light margarines are not recommended for baking or sauteeing because part of the fat has been replaced by water, but they are fine as spreads for breads or to flavor vegetables.
- The butterfat in milk, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese and cottage cheese is saturated. Choose skim or 1% dairy products if possible.
Be Able to Figure Out the Label!
- Are you a bewildered buyer? Are you confused by the information on food labels? Not to worry. Invest a little time and before you know it, you’ll be an expert at interpreting the information so you can make informed choices when shopping.
- Some brands of processed foods are higher in fat than others. Wherever possible, substitute lower fat versions of high-fat foods.
- Compare similar products to make the wisest, healthiest choice. Cheerios and corn flakes are both low in fat, but their fiber content differs.
- Check the label for nutritional information on the calories and fat content. Avoid products which contain hydrogenated fats or oils. Choose products which are low in saturated and trans fats.
- Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The ingredient present in the largest amount is listed first.
- The nutrient content is usually listed for 1 serving. If you eat more than the serving size indicated, this will affect the calories, fat, carbohydrates, etc. that you are consuming.
- Serving sizes should be realistic, as well as uniform. For example, one manufacturer may claim that 2 tsp. of oil contains 9.1 grams of fat. Another may claim that 1 tbsp. of oil contains 14 grams of fat. However, tablespoon for tablespoon, all oils contain the same amount of fat.
- Labels don’t always tell the whole story. Nutritional information on labels may not be complete. If a label makes a claim such as “light,” it only has to list the nutrients it’s making a claim about. For example, tomato sauce may be “light” but it could be very high in sodium, which may not be listed on the label because the manufacturer did not make any claims about sodium.
- Watch out for misleading claims. A product may claim to be “cholesterol-free” but that doesn’t mean it’s fat-free. (Free can become very expensive, necessitating the price of a new, larger wardrobe!)
- If a product claims to be “light” or “lite,” that doesn’t mean you are going to be lighter in weight just because you bought it! “Light” can refer to flavor, color or texture.
- Don’t be too carefree with foods labeled “fat-free.” They can contain up to 1/2 gram of fat per serving and still be labeled fat-free. If you have several servings a day of these so-called fat-free products, you can manage to eat a significant amount of fat (and calories).
- A low-fat label doesn’t always mean that a food is a good choice. Some low-fat foods are high in sugar, salt and/or calories. Many people are tempted to eat more because a food is labeled “low-fat,” taking it as a license to eat as much as they want. Portions are the problem.
Follow these guidelines and it won’t take very long to learn which products are best to buy. So shop and cook – in good health!