These days, food is confusing. You only have to step foot into the supermarket to immediately become overwhelmed by the vast amount of products to choose from. Just look at the toothpaste section. Over 20 different types of toothpaste I can choose from that all do the same thing, and I spend 20 minutes choosing one when I only needed to come here to get eggs…
When you’re doing your best to eat healthy, it’s also easy to get sucked into the products on the shelves which claim to be “good” for us – “a source of fibre”, “99% fat free”, “gluten free” etc all spring to mind. But unless you know how (or bother) to read a nutrition label, the ingredients list, or are a nutritionist or dietician, you might just be buying into products that aren’t all that good for you.
Next time you go for your shop, avoid these common mistakes to spend less time in the supermarket and be on your way to consuming a healthier diet.
1. BUYING LOW FAT PRODUCTS
When manufacturers reduce or remove the fat content in their products, other ingredients generally have to be added in to make up for the taste and consistency of the food that has been lost. Typically, that means adding sugar, salt, flour and thickeners. Lower fat products also are generally less satiating, which means we may eat more of the food to be completely satisfied. The result? You end up eating the same or more calories that the original product in the first place!
Don’t be scared of eating fat. Many recent studies have debunked the low fat diet protecting against cancers and heart disease and have in fact shown that saturated fat is not associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
An intake of fat is also essential for absorption of vitamins D, E, K and A, inflammation management, brain development, blood clotting and energy.
Choose mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated food sources such as almonds, avocado, olive oil, fish such as salmon and tuna, brazil nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and walnuts.
2. BUYING “HEALTH” FOOD BARS
Be extra careful when buying health food bars, as many are just high sugar candy bars in disguise. Although gluten free, refined sugar free, organic and delicious, many bars are very high in sugar due to the amount of dried fruit and honey used to sweeten them. They are a much better choice than processed candy or protein bars and won’t spike your blood sugar levels as quickly, but I would still recommend these bars for the occasional snack only, and not every single day.
See my video here on some of the NZ made health bars that I recommend.
3. DRINKING FRUIT JUICE
Be aware of store bought fruit juices and consuming these every day as a “healthy” option. Many have added sugars (and not to mention other preservatives and additives) and can have more sugar than your standard sugar laden fizzy drink per serve. Many are also not 100% fruit juice despite other claims on their label that make them seem healthier than they are. The occasional freshly squeezed juice is fine – it is full of amazing antioxidants, phytochemicals and is free of additives, preservatives, colourings and added sugars – BUT remember that because juice has most of its fibre content removed, any sugar is very quickly released in your blood stream. Instead, choice vegetable based juices or make green smoothies at home which are higher in fibre and lower in sugar.
4. THINKING GLUTEN FREE IS HEALTHY
Making the switch to “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean your diet will be automatically healthy. There are many packaged foods targeted to health conscious people that are just as processed with other ingredients such as sugar and thickeners to enhance the taste and texture of the product. Always read the label and look at the list of ingredients in the product and remember, the less packaged food the better!
5. USING ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Removing added sugar in your diet is one of the first steps to take when deciding to eat more healthy. But be careful of artificial sweeteners in the diet – especially sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and sugar alcohols. These can have nasty side affects in the body and research has also shown that they can interfere with our satiety. This is because we get taste the sweetness but reap no energy from the stuff which really starts to trick out bodies! Studies carried out in rats has shown that when fed artificial sweetener compared to sugar, appetite increased leading the rats to eat more and gain weight, and core body temperature (meaning metabolism) also decreased. Bottom line? Avoid artificial sweeteners and instead use sugar alternatives such as raw honey, coconut sugar or 100% maple syrup.
I hope these tips help you out next time you’re doing the supermarket shop. If I can give you one bit of final advice when trying to be “healthy”, that is to do your best to choose whole and unprocessed foods. The less packets the better – for you and for the environment.