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How You Can Shop Smarter & Healthier at the Supermarket

Selling food is a lesson in psychology. Supermarkets and food manufacturers particularly are very clever at using loads of tricks to lure you into shopping badly. So here's a few tips to save you money, time and ensure healthier choices when you're next at the supermarket.

1. End of aisle bargains - 'Bargains' end up in our trolley even if they weren't on your list and are never healthy choices. The end display area at the end of the aisle charges the highest premium by the supermarkets. Usually the 'bargain' will be sugary treats. You will never see anything from the health food section there so don't impulse buy. Look beyond the colourful displays and go and impulse buy in the fruit and vegetable section instead.

2. There are 3 aisles in the supermarket you never have to go down - biscuits, confectionary and soft drinks have the most shelf space in Australia as found in an international stdy compared to 8 other countries. If you don't walk down these aisles, you can't be tempted to buy anything and they are the worst for weight management and general health and nutrition. Once you feel you have enough self control, you can go and grab your 70% dark chocolate without taking a look at anything else.

3. Don't be fooled by marketing ploys like labelling and green packaging -

  • '75% less saturated fat' is a claim that's on the front of packaged food but if you read the fine print it doesn't mean anything in comparison to other products.

  • Always check every product for the very dangerous 'trans fat.'

  • Heart ticks and green packaging doesn't mean it's 'healthy'.

  • Products labelled as 'natural', 'light' or 'healthy' are usually full of fat and sugar. 'Light' does not necessarily mean low in energy or fat etc. It may mean light in colour, lightly toasted, light in salt, light in taste.

  • No added refined sugars does not necessarily mean the food is low in sugar, because the food may be high in natural sugars (for example, fruit juices)

  • Reduced Fat can be at least 25% less fat than the original product in the same brand, but the food may still be high in fat.

  • Cholesterol free -This does not mean low fat. Cholesterol is only found in food which contains animal fats (only animal’ make cholesterol – plants do not). For example, vegetable oils (canola, olive, sunflower etc) are cholesterol free, but are 100% again read the labels carefully.

  • The major ingredients in a food product are usually listed in the first 3 ingredients so if sugar is in the first 3, don't buy it!

4. Not everything in the health food aisle is healthy - just because a product is gluten free, soy free, dairy free or fructose friendly doesn't make it healthier than other products not in the health food aisle. It's important to remember that some of those products are for people with dietary needs but that doesn't mean more nutritious or better than regular products. The health food aisle supermarket home brand products are usually branded differently and are often the same thing as regular aisles. Take rolled oats - you don't need to spend $4 on organic rolled oats from the health food aisle when you can get home brand rolled oats for just over $1 in another aisle (unless 'organic' is important to you)

5. These are the healthiest guidelines for Fat, Sugar, Sodium and Fibre that you should always keep with you - I put these in my phone so I can check products carefully. Once you find a great product you don't need to spend so much time at the supermarket but for the first couple of visits spend the time to read the labels of what you are buying when it comes to packaged food.

Always look at the per 100g column (this allows for comparison between products)

FAT: Look for products with less than 5g of total fat per 100g. Aim for the lowest saturated content when comparing products SUGAR: Look for products with less than 10g of sugar per 100g.

FIBRE: If a product contains 3- 6g of fibre per serve then this is a ‘high’ fibre product. Aim for the highest fibre content

SALT: Try to choose “low salt” or “reduced salt” products. Look for products with less than 300mg sodium per 100g. The definition of “low salt” is less than 120mg of sodium per 100g

Remember the rule - check the first 3 ingredients - if sugar, fat or salt are in the first 3 ingredients, don't buy it!

6. Words that mean FAT SUGAR SALT -

FAT can be any of these: Vegetable oil/fat, Animal Fat/oils, Shortening, Copha, Lard, Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Butter, Margarine, Milk Solids, monoglycerides, diglycerides

SUGAR is sometimes called these: (look for names ending in OSE) like Sucrose, maltose, fructose, dextrose, glucose, lactose, manitol, sorbitol, xylitol, corn syrup, dissacharides, honey

SALT can be: sodium, na, MSG, monosodium glutamate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium lactate, baking soda, yeast extracts

Hope this helps the next time you're at the supermarket!


Lifestylist Health & Fitness

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