A recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that almost two-thirds of American grocery purchases are highly processed foods. In addition, 77 percent of American grocery purchases consist of either moderately or highly processed foods. So today the average American consumes more than 1,000 calories of processed foods every day. WOW that is a lot of processed food!
Beware of marketing. The face or front of the package is the food manufactures billboard. It’s designed to catch your attention quickly and get you to buy the product. Don’t believe the front of the package. That’s because terms like all natural or fat-free are often slapped on a food item that may not be healthy at all. You need to look at what is in that box. Always check out the nutrition facts panel on the back or side of a product.
Read the Ingredients. The real story of the what is in that package is listed in the ingredients. Two easy tips to always follow are 1) is to seek items with the least amount of ingredients and 2) the more known ingredients that you can pronounce is always better.
Where is the ingredient on the list? If the real food is at the end of the list and the sugar, salt, and the fake stuff are at the beginning of the list, put it back. The most abundant ingredient is listed first and then the others are listed in descending order by weight.
Look for the sugar. Sugar is in a lot of processed foods. It’s cheap and makes the food more palatable. You really need to see where sugar is listed in the ingredients list. Is it listed in the first 3 ingredients? If it is, put it back. Also, check the Nutrition facts. How many grams of sugar are listed? Is it more than 5 grams? If it is, you should rethink getting that food. Our daily recommended amount of sugar per day is 25 grams. The average American adult is eating over 88 grams of sugar per day that is 3 times more than the recommended amount.
Note the Serving Size. Look at the serving size and compare it to what you to what you actually eating. Cereal and ice cream are usually ½ cup to ¾ cup per serving but it that all that you really eat? Many times, we assume the small package means that it is a single serving. So, the next time you grab your favorite beverage, look at serving size and then multiply all the nutrition facts by that number.
Download Fooducate. Fooducate is a free app that you can use in the store or in your pantry to scan the barcodes of nearly any item and it will give you the food’s health grade from A - F. This will allow you to quickly evaluate the quality of food and compare it to other items.
Need more help? If cooking healthy meals at home is one of your goals and you feel stuck and overwhelmed with planning healthy meals, connect to learn more about my 6-week meal planning package.
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Hello! I'm Jori Zimmerman, a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Savvy. I work with individuals that are looking to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will lead them to living a healthier and higher quality of life.