Watch this video featured in USA TODAY for a nutritious approach to shopping at a supermarket.
Grocery-Shopping Mistakes to Steer Clear Of
By Michelle Healy, USA TODAY
Determined to improve your family’s diet? Take a closer look at what’s in your grocery cart. USA TODAY’s Michelle Healy turned to Cynthia Held, a registered dietitian in Hagerstown, Md., who conducts personalized grocery shopping tours to help clients better learn how to shop for nutrition and health. She highlights five common mistakes consumers make.
- Shopping without a list
Preparing a list in advance “keeps you focused on the healthiest food purchases for you and your family,” Held says. It also makes you “less likely to forget important ingredients for the week’s menus, become more resistant to impulse-buying, take advantage of coupons and sales, and save time.”
Tip: Many grocery stores offer a free basic shopping checklist. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has a downloadable list to help you get started at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/healthieryou/html/shopping_list.html.
- Forgetting to shop the store’s perimeter.
The fringe of the supermarket “contains the main food groups represented by MyPyramid, the USDA’s healthy guide for eating a balanced diet,” Held says. Shopping the outer ring helps ensure you fill up your cart with a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein-rich meats, seafood, poultry and eggs, she says.
Tip: Don’t downplay the dairy section. “Most Americans do not consume adequate dairy products, and this is unfortunate because dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium, protein and vitamin D,” Held says. And not only do dairy products promote healthy bones, research shows they play a role in lowering blood pressure, she says. Also: Be sure to choose non-fat and low-fat dairy products to keep fat and calories down.
- Skimping on fruits and vegetables
Average number of items carried in grocery stores in 2010: 17,392.
New food products introduced in 2010: 47,211.
Source: The Food Marketing Institute
“Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, water and fiber, plus they are relatively low in calories,” Held says. That combination of fiber and water enables you to feel full longer, important for weight control. Produce is also naturally low in fat and sodium and contains phytochemicals, compounds in plants that may reduce the risk of certain diseases. “The deeper and more vibrantly colored produce is packed with the most nutrients,” she says. And yes, frozen, canned or dried foods are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts because they are packaged at their nutrient peak, she says.
Tip: With frozen vegetables or fruits, look for no added sugars, fats or sodium. Canned fruit is healthier when packed in natural juices or water. Look for canned vegetables with no salt added; rinsing in water removes about 40% of the sodium.
- Missing out on whole grains
February’s issue of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter notes that “consuming a diet rich in whole grains has been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers” Held says. However, most people don’t eat enough whole grains. The newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of all grains consumed be whole grains, and that whole-grain intake be increased by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
Tip: “Many grain-based foods have terms that can fool you into thinking they are whole-grain,” Held says. “100% wheat, for example, refers to the fact that wheat is the only grain used. It could actually contain processed white flour and no whole wheat.” Some clues to whole grain include the terms “100% whole wheat, whole wheat, whole white wheat, whole rye, whole oats, rolled oats, cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley and bulgur.
- Ignoring the nutrition label
Using the label “helps us choose more nutritious foods by tracking calories, identifying ingredients, maximizing nutrients and comparing products,” Held says. And it’s an essential tool when checking out the center aisles of the grocery store where many healthy food choices share space with less healthy options full of fat, sugar and sodium.
Tip: Pay particular attention to the serving size and calories per serving listed on the nutrition label. A packaged muffin may contain 300 calories a serving, but if the serving size listed is one-half muffin, there are two servings per package and the actual muffin contains 600 calories.