Tips on how to buy healthy food

Yesterday morning on the Sue Nunn show on KCLR, I shared some of these tips with their listeners – all part of the Irish Times/Pfizer Healthy towns initiative which is on here in Kilkenny until the 11th November 2012.

12 Tips on how to buy healthy food

1. Have a plan – create a weekly meal plan based on eating well around the four food groups: vegetables and fruit, whole-grain products, lower-fat dairy products and lean meats & fish.

2. Make a list – use your meal plan to making a grocery shopping list. Organize your shopping list by grouping items that are found in the same area of the store.

3. Don’t shop when hungry! An empty tummy often results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest!

4. Focus your time in the fresh food areas
Spend most of your time shopping in the outer aisles where you’ll find all the fresh foods i.e. bread, fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy. The inner aisles are usually full of processed foods, which you want to avoid.

5. Enjoy plenty of vegetables and fruit
Choose the most colorful fruits and vegetables, the more varied the colors, the better. The colors reflect the different vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content of each fruit or vegetable.

6. Choose whole grain foods
When choosing whole-grain cereals, aim for at least 4 grams of fiber per serving, and the less sugar, the better.
Look for the words whole grain, whole wheat flour, whole rye, whole oat or oatmeal, whole corn, whole barley, etc., at the beginning of the ingredient list on packaged grain products and choose grain products that are low in fat, sugar and salt.

7. Oils and Fats
Consume in small amounts. Choose 2 servings per day. 1 portion = 1 tsp oil, 1 tsp spread. Mayonnaise and salad dressings count towards oil intake. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated spreads and oils which are lower in saturated fat (olive, rapeseed, sunflower, corn), however don’t overuse as they are still high in fat!

8. Select lean meat and alternatives
Buy leaner meats (with fat trimmed and poultry with skin removed) and enjoy alternatives such as beans and lentils. Eat at least two servings of oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines each week. Avoid battered fish. Buy low sodium canned beans or try dried beans, peas and lentils.

9. Dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurts)
Choose milk and yoghurts more often that cheese due to its high fat content. Avoid fruit yoghurts due to added sugar – instead add berries to the yoghurt.

10. Limit food and drink choices that are less healthy
Food and drinks that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt (sodium) should be limited but can be enjoyed at times. These include cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks. Beware of salt hidden in processed meats – limit salami, ham, corned beef, bacon, sausages and smoked salmon.

11. Read the food labels
Choose nutritious products with less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. Look for the number of grams of sugar on a label – 4 grams is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. If possible buy foods that contain 5 grams or less.

Look for sugars in all its different forms on the label. A variety of different versions of refined sugars are often used to trick you into thinking that there is not much sugar in the product. Here are some of the different versions of refined sugar – cane sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, date sugar, grape sugar, glucose, sucrose, maltose, maltodextrin, dextran, dextrose, sorbitol, corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt, caramel, carob syrup and sorghum syrup.

12. And finally….avoid any UFO’s!!
Unidentified food objects – things with artificial, unpronounceable ingredients

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