Walk around your local supermarket and notice where the groceries are displayed. On the outer edge you will find fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and dairy products. These food products are packaged and sold as grown. If you look at each item, you can see what it is. A cabbage is a cabbage and nothing more. The organic varieties are grown as nature intended. The result is highly nutritious foods packed with vitamins, minerals and omega-3 oils, all of which are essential to supporting a healthy body.
Let’s move on to the freezer section, where things get a bit mixed. You can find frozen versions of the same fresh vegetables and meats and they too are good diet choices. Freezing preserves almost all of the nutrients in freshly picked vegetables. Since some seasonal vegetables aren’t available, you can check the large freezers to find them. Storing frozen vegetables in your home freezer can be a very helpful backup supply when you forget to replace the fresh ones you bought.
Almost anything labeled as groceries in the supermarket deserves a much closer look before you put it in your shopping cart. This includes the freezers and the aisles piled high with boxes and other creative packaging. You can generally assume it’s processed or manufactured food if it comes in a box and has a list of ingredients. Creative packaging can be very tempting when photos of delicious hot dishes steam off the front of the box.
Unfortunately, many packaged foods fail the nutritional test on two fronts; They don’t provide the nutritional content that fresh foods do and often contain ingredients that can do more harm than good. People know that eating too much sugar and starches contributes to weight gain, inflammation, and other harmful effects on the body. Food manufacturers creatively incorporate sugars or starches hidden behind names you can’t pronounce, often ending in “-ose,” which is a sure sign of sugar.
Don’t be fooled by the label on the front of the pack, especially if it says “natural”. Instead, focus on the ingredient list on the back. For example, you can choose stevia as a natural plant-based sugar substitute. Conceptually, this is a good choice. However, if the main ingredient in your stevia packet is dextrose, then eat corn-based sugar.
Another interesting ingredient is monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is often used to improve flavor. Many people don’t realize that ingredients like hydrolyzed or texturized vegetable protein and yeast extract are loaded with MSG. Like sugar, MSG is listed under several alternative names. Manufacturers also use many creative and seemingly harmless names for chemical preservatives.
If you decide to buy any of these packaged foods, do some research on the ingredients being made and check the labels carefully. Better yet, buy all your groceries from the outer edges of the store and only visit the center aisles for homewares.
Thanks to Patrick Smyth