We try to make good choices at the grocery store. But, unless we’re only buying items without nutritional information (fruits & veggies), it’s difficult to navigate marketing jargon: No Sugar! Fat Free! Multigrain! Too often these phrases simply mask the increase in artificial ingredients.
Sometimes what we think sounds healthiest is really just creative advertising.
What are some common misconceptions?
Multigrain is better than Whole Grain.
Multi means more, and more is better, right? Not in this case. Whole grain means the entire grain kernal (bran, germ, endosperm) are used to provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin B.
While multiple grains may be used in “mulitgrain” products, unless the ingredient list states “whole grain” as opposed to “enriched…”, generally the endosperm only is used which has less nutritional value.
(Multi-grain/Whole grain photo credit)
Yogurt is the perfect snack choice.
Although yogurt (Greek yogurt especially) can be an excellent source of protein and calcium, it can also be chocked full of sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.
Try plain yogurt and adding real vanilla extract and fresh fruit at home. Adjust the sweetness yourself with honey or agave nectar.
(yogurt photo credit)
Fat-Free and Sugar-Free are healthier choices
Not so fast. Some treats, like licorice, are naturally fat-free, however they’re high in calories and sugar. Binging on “fat-free” treats isn’t going to save you any hours at the gym.
Most “fat-free” foods (cookies, dressings, snacks) need fat to maintain its texture. Therefore, in order to replicate the product’s consistency, generally more sugar, carbohydrates, and sodium are added to the product.
If a product says sugar-free, double check the label. Though there may not be any natural cane sugar, there’s likely plenty of artificial sugar substitutes: aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, rebiana (truvia), sorbitol, splenda (just to name a few). Not only are these poor nutritional substitutes, they can also be 100’s of times sweeter than ordinary table sugar.
Too often, these sugar substitutes increase sugar cravings instead of curbing them with a smaller portion of real ingredients.
Want to take the guess-work out of label reading? Check out the app Fooducate. No, they aren’t paying me, they aren’t even aware of this endorsement- I just really love the app. Simply scan any given product and it pops up with a letter grade.
Not an A+? It will also give you reasons why it has a lower grade (excessive sugar for example) and other products that are better options.
It’s also a great tool when kids want to add “junk” treats to the cart. Occasionally, I’ll let them add the item if it scores a B+ or better.