With a few simple tricks and tips, you can make your next trip to the supermarket a healthy one. Here are must-have, must-know tips and tricks.
Before you go
When and where you shop can make a difference in what you bring home. Be smart with the following suggestions:
- Make a list. You'll avoid unhealthy impulse buys, save money and won't forget the must-have ingredient for tonight's dinner. But try to be a little flexible, especially if the store is out of the item you want or if a similar item looks fresher.
- Pick the right supermarket. Whether it's convenient or offers what you like (vegetarian, ethnic cuisine, seafood or butcher counter), stick to a store that makes it easy for you to get home with foods you enjoy.
- Pick the right time. Avoid crowds (and long waits at check out) by shopping early in the morning or on weekend evenings. Or ask your cashier about the best times to shop there.
- Eat first. A healthy snack or meal will ensure your grumbling tummy won't let unhealthy cravings decide what goes in your cart.
In the store
Your list probably includes a combination of both fresh and packaged foods. Packaged foods will contain a nutrition labels that includes Nutrition Facts (which gives info on serving size, calories and 13 nutrients) and a list of ingredients. Here's an example, what it all means and some helpful recommendations.
The number of calories listed is per amount of food specified — not for the entire package and not for a Canada’s Food Guide serving. This is important to know because the amount of calories can be for a much smaller amount of food than we think.
So, in this example, if the entire package is 250 ml and you eat it all, you just had 160 calories.
Here is the amount and percentage of the daily value of nutrients per amount of food specified. The % daily value is useful when you’re watching what you eat and when comparing one packaged food to another.
For example, the Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Association recommend that we eat less fat, saturated fat and trans fat, cholesterol and sodium; but we should get more carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.A good rule of thumb to follow:
- Less than 5% daily value means that serving size contains a little bit of that nutrient.
- More than 15% daily value means a serving contains a lot of it.
And the ingredients list will tell you a lot about what you’re buying.
Ingredients are listed from most to least according to weight. This means the product contains more of the ingredients listed at the beginning of the list and less of those at the end.
Unfortunately, some of the things you’re trying to avoid are listed under a different name. For example, these common items go by the following “codenames”:
|If you’re trying to avoid…||…Watch for these common ingredients|
|Saturated fat||Bacon |
Hydrogenated fats and oils
Palm or palm kernel oil
Powdered whole milk solids
|Trans fat||Hard margarine |
Hydrogenated fats and oils
Partially hydrogenated fats and oils
|Salt (sodium)||Baking powder / soda |
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Sodium alginate / benzoate / bisulfate / proprionate
|Sugars||Note: Words that end in “ose” indicate a sugar; “ol” indicates a sugar alcohol.|
|Cane juice extract |
High fructose corn syrup
Guide to smarter choices
Now that you understand food labels, % daily values and ingredient lists better, use your skills to make healthier choices. Here are some helpful tips and tricks for each of the four food groups:
|Food group||Go with||Pass on|
|Fruit and vegetables|| || |
|Grain products|| || |
|Milk and alternatives|| || |
|Meat and alternatives|| || |