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7 Tips That Will Completely Change Your Shopping Habits At The Supermarket

In a perfect world, we would have all the time in the world to cook ourselves from scratch, only from the most fresh and healthiest ingredients available.

But let’s be realistic – when you have to divide your time between school, work, friends, family and other tasks, most of us compromise on store-bought food a little more than we would like to.

Store bought food isn’t the worst thing in the world once you know how to make correct and healthy choices. If you understand the basics of reading food labels, you could make sure that even the packaged food you buy at the supermarket will be as close as possible nutritionally to the food you would choose to prepare at home yourself.

But how are you even supposed to understand something from all of the information they give us in these food labels? After all, most of us haven’t studied nutrition and the information written on the labels is kind of gibberish the second you don’t understand what stands behind the definitions – there are numbers and percentages, and it’s tough to decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

As someone with high awareness to the whole health field, food labels always interested me. I decided to save you the hassle and after extensive research in the field, I gathered all the important information for you in an easy and comprehensible way in this post

1. Serving size –

The serving size is one of the most important things you have to pay attention to when reading a food label, since it affects all of the other information in the chart.

Many people think that the amount defined as a serving size is in fact the amount in the product itself, but unfortunately this isn’t the situation.

Most food manufacturers are trying to adapt a low-calorific look to their products to make us to believe that the product is attractive, and for this reason the amount that they define as one serving is usually much smaller than the actual amount that a normal person will eat from the product. Therefore, before anything else, check out how many portions are actually in one package containing the product.

Let’s take the “Nature Valley” snack for example – the manufacturers consider a serving size one bar and not the two bars each package contains like many people tend to think!

2. Pay attention to the order of the ingredients listed –

Food ingredients are arranged in a descending order from the largest to the smallest. Therefore, it’s very important to pay attention to the ingredients listed at the beginning and at the end.

If the list begins with ingredients like white flour, sugar or a bad kind of fat like butter/ palm oil/ margarine, for example, it’s best to try and find healthier alternatives for that product; if a healthier alternative doesn’t exist, at least you’ll be aware that the product is unhealthy and eating a lot of it will cause weight gain.

3. Not all calories are equal –

Many people tend to count calories and ignore the rest of the information on the label. But what exactly are calories and how important are they? A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy, in fact all of the energy our body gets comes from the food you eat during the day.

Watching the number of calories we intake is indeed one of the factors that can help manage weight (whether it's to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain it), but whoever thinks that the number written is the only important criterion is completely wrong.

Apart from watching the intake of a certain amount of calories, it’s very important to focus on the quality of the calories.

What does that mean? If a product has a lot of protein, fiber,  good fats and vitamins with a reasonable number of calories, the product is considered to have a high nutritional value and is a good choice and healthy.

However, you should avoid the consumption of “empty calories”, i.e. foods with a low nutritional value.

4. Pay less attention to the daily limit requirements –

The amount of calories a person needs varies depending on age, gender, physical activity, goal weight and other factors. The guidelines from the Ministry of Health are outdated and very general, and the values for the recommended daily requirements are based on a daily diet containing 2,000 calories per day. Therefore, in my opinion, this information isn’t relevant because it doesn’t really reflect the correct daily limit for each and every one of us.

5. Avoid products with a long list of ingredients that includes unfamiliar words and a lot of E numbers –

These types of products are usually very processed and therefore less healthy for your body, so it’s best to generally choose products with a short list of ingredients.

As a rule, always prefer to eat less processed food and as much natural food as possible, even when the food product is packaged.

6. Try to choose products low in sodium –

Sodium is essential to maintain the proper balance of body fluids – small amounts of sodium contribute to balance fluids in the body and it also helps the transmission of electrical signals between nerve cells, but too much sodium is harmful to the body and causes an increase in blood pressure. Therefore, the amount of sodium printed on food labels is very important in maintaining a healthy body.

Pay attention that packaged food products often contain high amounts of sodium, because sodium is also used as a preservative. Salads and processed meats (sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers and kebabs) contain high amounts of sodium. Always choose to buy the low-sodium products {not more than 100 mg of sodium for 100 g of food}.

7. Make a smart comparison –

One of the best ways to make the right choices in selecting healthy food is to make a comparison. Most of us find it hard to look at the food label of each product and decide whether the nutritional values are considered good or not.

That's exactly why you should compare the nutritional values of products from the same category {for example, a few types of instant soup powders} and choose the best one out of the options. Always prefer products that contain less sodium and less saturated fat or trans-fat and more protein and fiber.

Try paying more attention to food labels next time you're at the supermarket and you’ll be surprised to find out what the products you usually throw into your cart really consist of

What other health related issues are you interested in seeing on the site? Tell me in the comments!

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