Health-Minded Grocery Shopping

The ultimate way of taking control of personal health is by controlling what foods we eat. Making healthy food choices when shopping for groceries will help guarantee we are on the right path.

Healthy food choices are considered to be fresh whole foods and lightly processed foods over highly processed and fried foods. Fresh whole foods include fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, unrefined grains and animal products such as lean meats and some dairy products. Lightly processed foods can be recognized by their short ingredients lists (up to five ingredients) and common kitchen cupboard ingredients. Highly processed foods on the other-hand have long ingredients lists and contain artificial ingredients you cannot find at home.

Highly processed foods often offer little nutrition if any and contain artificial ingredients of which some have been linked to the development of serious health conditions. Artificial ingredients; such as: colourings, flavourings, preservatives, sweeteners, thickeners, fillers and trans fats; should all be avoided. Learning to identify with the “Ingredients List” and “Nutritional Facts” labels on packaged foods are critical in making healthy food choices.

Another concern in choosing healthy foods today is caused by some modern farming practices. At least half of the foods grown in farmers crops and orchards in Canada today are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which have been heavily sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and other dangerous chemicals that have all been linked to the development of different cancers or other serious health conditions. Organic foods are the safe alternative, as they are not genetically altered and are grown without the use of dangerous chemicals.

The vegetable oils used for cooking and to make salad dressings can also greatly impact a person’s health in a positive or negative way, depending on what is being used for what purpose. Healthy salad oils include avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil and healthy cooking oils include coconut oil, avocado oil and then olive oil; all other vegetable oils should be avoided.

Vegetable oils such as: soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and margarine; are often made from GMO products and have been introduced to dangerous chemicals. Some of the processing methods used in extracting these oils introduce toxins through the refining process and through the use of various industrial chemicals. Vegetable oils are often high in omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to chronic inflammatory conditions. Vegetable oils are also high in trans fats which are associated with increased risk of various diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Eating foods that are local and fresh also help contribute to their nutritional value. The fresher the foods are the higher concentration of vitamins and minerals they will possess. Choose fresh whole foods when shopping and learn to identify with the “Ingredients” lists and “Nutritional Facts” labels on processed products and live a long healthy life.

Identifying with the Nutrition Facts Table

Serving Size: The serving size identifies how much of the particular food item is equivalent to one food serving. Serving size is what the rest of the information on the Nutrition Facts label is based on. If two servings of the food is consumed then the calorie count is doubled, as well as everything else listed on the label. Meaning, “a little” fat can become “a lot”.

% Daily Value (%DV): The % is based on a unique scale of 5% (a little) to 15% (a lot) of which applies to particular nutrients. In the Nutritional Facts example above it can be identified that there is “a little” fat and sodium in the product; whereas there is “a lot” of carbohydrates and very high in fibre.

The daily value scale is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. A persons actual “Daily Values” may be higher or lower depending on their recommended calories. In the chart below the “Nutritional Facts Recommendations” are shown for the above fictitious product.

I hope this helps you on your next visit to the grocery store!

Written by: J. Marshall

– FDA, How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label:
– FDA; Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide:
– Health Canada, Food and Nutrition, Nutrition Labelling:
– Authority Nutrition:
–, Why GMOs Can Never Be Safe:!

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