Food marketing seems to be getting more prominent these days, as companies know that people are becoming more health conscious and wanting to make healthier choices when grocery shopping. This is why the slap “claims” on their packaging stating things like “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, “gluten-free”, “zero calorie” etc. etc.
Walking through the grocery store with the intention of eating healthy and making better decisions purchasing food can be quite the confusing struggle! I am the type of person that reads every nutrition label before I purchase anything processed and I actually get a little bit excited when I notice other people doing the same!
But How Do We Know What is Actually Healthy & What is Food Marketing?
I thought I would help you out a little bit on what a few of these “buzz words” found on food packaging actually mean. Take a look at the image I created below to break it down:
Now sure the image above is meant to be little funny and is not true for every single product you find in the grocery store, but it is just a little eye opener to remind you how important it is to read nutrition labels and not just make decisions based on claims on the front of the packaging.
What Should We Look For On a Nutrition Label?
Yes this can also get confusing at times, especially if you are in a rush. The image below is a basic run down of things you can take a quick peek for on a nutrition label to determine if you should purchase the product or not.
- Serving Size – this is important to take a peek at because this is often much less than you would expect to be a serving, which means the calorie count you are reading below is often lower than what you would actually eat.
- Calorie Count – as mentioned above you want to take a look at how many calories per serving, as this can be quite deceiving.
- Sodium – watch for hidden sodium! Many processed and packaged foods have a very high sodium contents; therefore, the lower this number is the better.
- Fat and Cholesterol – we all know there are good fats and bad fats right? Bad fats and cholesterol we want to keep to the lower end are the saturated fat and trans fat (a little bit is OK), but try to make sure these numbers are low.
- Dietary Fiber – higher fiber is great because it is more filling, lowers blood pressure, and cuts cholesterol (to name a few benefits). Watch for foods claiming “added fiber” as this is not natural occurring fiber like we want. Women should aim for at least 25g of fiber per day and men around 35g per day.
- Sugar – this number is one of the most important to look at; however, even if this number is low it could mean that their are sugar alcohols and other chemicals added to the product. This is when we steer our eyes down to the ingredient list. Take another peek at the nutrition translations image above for more information.
- Vitamins – lot’s of vitamins are always a good thing!
- Protein & Carbohydrates – we always like foods with high protein, as this keeps us full longer and feeds our muscles and metabolism; however, looking at carbohydrate and protein numbers would be more based on the type of macronutrient split you are looking for.
- Ingredients – go by the basic theory of less is more. The less ingredients in the item, means the closer to it’s natural state it is (this is what we want!) and the less amount of ingredients you can’t pronounce the better!
Read more about how to master the grocery store and not fall for food marketing HERE
The moral of the story with this topic is to be very careful when choosing “healthy” foods at the grocery store and how to know when it’s just food marketing. I want everyone to take a second to flip a package over and take a glance at the nutrition label in order to make smarter choices in feeding ourselves and our families.