With spring on the horizon, many of us are trying to eat healthier to get ready for the warm weather and bathing suit season. When it comes to grocery shopping however, there are definitely some foods that appear to be better than they actually are. Unfortunately for us as consumers, unless we know how to read food labels and know what to avoid, it’s pretty easy to be fooled. Here are five things you need to know about reading food labels when grocery shopping for healthy choices.
Sales for products considered to be “gluten free” have doubled since 2005. When people first started going gluten free, it was due to the increasing number of those suffering from celiac disease, which is the inability to digest gluten (the protein in wheat, barley and rye). But more recently, people have been trying this diet in an effort to stop other ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome or general weight loss.
Unfortunately for those who buy these products, they’re spending much more at the cash register and truly aren’t necessary unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Another item to keep in mind is that these foods will not help you lose weight. In fact, they generally have more calories and are lower in nutrients, which will leave you hungrier and will cause you to consume more calories at the end of the day.
Trans fat free
Trans fat was a big issue several years ago and after major cities including New York, Baltimore and Boston banned restaurants from using man-made trans fat, we thought we were in the clear when it comes to avoiding this bad fat. That was until we were exposed to the loophole in FDA labeling. That’s right, manufacturers can actually claim that their product has zero grams trans fat, even if it does have it but the amount is less than a half gram per serving. This is when checking labels becomes very serious. Check ingredient lists for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and chances are this product does indeed have trans fat in it. In general, you’ll find trans fat in junk food like doughnuts, frosting, cakes and other unhealthy options. Buy fewer of these and worry less about trans fat seeping into your diet!
The idea of buying local can transform the way you think about foods. They’re grown in soil nearby, at farms nearby and are generally healthier, right? If we’re talking about fruits and vegetables, then yes, but if you’re looking to buy products like local butter, you might want to reconsider what you’re spending your money on. Fruits and vegetables sold at farmers’ markets are usually at the peak of nutrition and flavor, but high-cal products like butter really isn’t much different from store bought butter in terms of ingredients.
Buying whole grain products has become a necessity for many, with the knowledge that whole grain products are significantly healthier for us than traditional white or wheat flour products. Whole wheat flour has more protein, fiber, and more vitamin E than refined flour. Just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for labels that say “made with whole grains” as opposed to “100 percent whole grain”. When you’re buying these products, reading the ingredients can be the best way to identify if this product truly is what the label says. The first ingredient should be listed as whole wheat flour, not just wheat flour.