Last week I took my Nutrition class on a field trip for a Grocery store tour. We have been learning how to read food labels and comparing products for price and nutrition value. My students have realized the greatest piece of information on the Food label is not the Nutrition facts, but the list of ingredients. It is in the ingredients list that you can determine how healthy the product is for you. The key is to be able to read and know what each ingredient is in the list. Typically the less ingredients the better. For example, peanut butter should only be two ingredients, peanuts and salt. If there are additional ingredients in your peanut butter like additional oils and sugars, there are healthier choices you could make.
Overall – walking the exterior of the grocery store is where you will find the healthier choices. However, as we found on our tour, you will still find processed products along the exterior. For example, as you walk into a grocery store, you will be bombarded with a mix of deals or specials they are highlighting that week. In our store, we had to walk past the deli and through the bakery section to get to the produce section.
In produce, we discussed that the less expensive produce will be what is currently in season. In our grocery store, they also have a clearance rack section where you can find great bundles of produce already bagged for just $1 per bag. From produce, we move on to the meat section. Our store also has a discount section for meat on certain days you may be able to find great deals.
As we moved along past the meat, we came to the refrigerated section that was full of deli meats and other similar processed meats. We reviewed the labels and discussed how these meats are highly processed and high in sodium. A student asked a great question, “then what can you do to make quick sandwiches?” We discussed baking/broiling your own chicken, cooking your beef/chicken in a crock pot or if you want to make it simple, purchase one of the rotisserie chickens.
Last is the cheese, egg, yogurt and dairy/milk sections. The students selected their favorite yogurts and compared food labels. Fruited yogurts can be high in sugar. Better choice would be to purchase plain or vanilla yogurt and add your own fruit, grain, nuts. Earlier in the week, a student had presented on the difference between cow’s milk, almond milk and soy milk. Cow’s milk naturally contains 11 different important nutrients. Most of these same nutrients are fortified in the soy and nut milks. In addition, simply looking at the list of ingredients, with cow’s milk there are 2 ingredients: milk and Vitamin D. With the soy and nut milks, you will find multiple ingredients, including sugar, thickeners and fortification of vitamins/minerals that are not naturally found in those foods to make it comparable to cow’s milk.
We did go through some of the center aisles – frozen vegetables and fruits, dried and canned foods and dried pasta. If produce is expensive and/or out of season, the first choice would be frozen. Fresh-frozen can actually be more nutrious than most of the fresh produce as they freeze the produce right after harvesting so the retention of nutrients will be higher in the fresh-frozen. If you are looking to save even more money, you can go canned, but you will be sacrificing some nutrition value. If you choose canned, be sure to find those that are packed in water or their own juices. Avoid those with added sugars or packed in syrup. With canned beans, you can reduce some of the sodium by rinsing the beans prior to use. If you are worried about the sodium level, purchase dried beans and cook them yourself.
Cereals – look for those that are low in sugar, use whole grains which should result in fiber per serving being at least 3 g. A less processed choice would be oats. Be careful with the single serve packets like Quaker, which have a lot of added sodium and sugars and additional things to maintain freshness. I like to use a product called Coach’s Oats which is a mix of cut oats that I can microwave in 2 minutes and then add my own toppings of fruit, cinnamon and milk.
This article talks about how grocery stores are layed out and where they put items they want to sell based on how we typically shop. http://www.kgw.com/story/news/investigations/2015/10/29/shopping-secrets-how-grocery-stores-get-you-buy-more/74834840/
Picture courtesy of eatright.org photo library.