Eating a healthy diet doesn’t just take place in the kitchen. The first stop is almost always the grocery store, stocked with endless opportunities. However, it is still a business so manufacturers have smart tricks to encourage you to buy their products, and more of it. Whats at the front of the store compared to the back? The less nutritious but colorful food stocks the front shelves with ads and coupons galore, but the basics like milk and eggs are clear at the back of the store, and spread far apart which ensures that you will have to walk past thousands of products just to get to the staples.
Think you can dart down an aisle without getting distracted? If you can, you’re very talented. Manufacturers pay what is called a “slotting fee” which means they pay extra to have their products at eye level, and taking up more space horizontally so you have to pass their products or brands multiple times. Even better? The slotting fees they pay to have products at about a 3 foot high level i.e. a child’s eye level.
Those aisles are a specific length as well as width, so you have to make it clear to the end if you want to turn around easily with a cart. In some stores the tiles on the middle of the aisle are made smaller, so that the cart clacking along on the floor makes it seem as if you’re going faster, so you subconsciously slow down. Which gives you more time to browse the aisles and products put there specifically to entice you into buying them.
Skipping to the produce section, store owners are just as savvy there. The sprinkler systems are not there to keep the produce watered-they’ve already been picked. It is watered to keep it looking fresh and appealing so the fact that some produce has been sitting out for many hours doesn’t deter you from purchasing it.
So now that you are in the store looking for the things you need, how do you know which item is best when it comes in 5 varieties? The words on the labels can be confusing, which they are meant to be so you don’t put their product down just because it contains “sugar”. So lets breakdown the label, starting with a few things to remember.
- Whole foods are always best. The closer you can get a food to its original form, the better it will be for you. For example raw vegetables or fruit, then frozen, then canned if I must. People are amazed when I tell them I choose 100% real bacon or whole butter
- Be aware of the different lingo that products may list in their ingredients which is just a code name for sugar! Some of my favorites:
- The less ingredients the better. And if a 7 year old can’t pronounce it, stay away. Often in reduced fat or reduced sugar products, they may be lower in calories but they are also filled with funky additives that are not even close to real food such as Butylated HydrozyAnisole (BHA) which is used in beer, crackers, butter, cereals, and foods with added fats to preserve their shelf life. Studies have shown BHA to cause cancer in the stomachs of animal studies, and the Department of Health and Human Services classifies the preservative as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”
- Picking the more nutritious option trumps the option that has lower calories. Have a salty craving? 1 lightly salted Quaker rice cake may only be 35 calories, but it is digested quickly resulting in a spike in your blood sugar, which will then dip and leave you tired and reaching for more empty calories. 1/2 cup plain pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus will leave you at around 150 calories, but with healthy fats and a little protein to keep you more full, and protein is digested slowly so you can avoid the insulin spike and crash cycle.
Keeping those things in mind, keep your eyes peeled for my next post where I’ll investigate labels and what all the confusing lingo advertisers use to sell their products and what they actually mean.