When it comes to making those trips to the grocery store, making healthy choices can sometimes get confusing with wordy food labels.
But with a few simple tips, making food decisions may seem a whole lot easier.
Jennifer Hazen with the Alaska Nurses Association said reading food labels accurately has been linked to lower rates of obesity.
It may come as a surprise to many that a lot of foods that seem healthy, aren’t—meal replacement bars, for example.
“An example of a more processed choice for a bar would be one where there are 15 plus ingredients,” said Hazen.
Hazen’s first bit of general advice, the fewer ingredients on a label, the more likely it is to be a healthier choice.
“A 'Lara Bar' is an example of a good snack choice. Less processed—there are actually just two ingredients on most labels,” Hazen said.
One of the biggest misconceptions about food labels could be found in the natural choice aisle, just because it’s labeled organic or all-natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the healthiest option.
“I think people are deceived sometimes by the natural section of the grocery store,” said Hazen. “They think things here are all healthy but it’s not, so it’s still important to read the labels and find out how much oil is in the product.”
To read food labels Hazen recommends starting at the top to determine the serving size.
The reality check on serving size often comes as a surprise. After all, the more servings you consume, the math on calories and negative impacts really add up.
“A half-cup is not very much cereal and most people are eating two or three times what the serving size says,” said Hazen. “You need to double or triple the amount of calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates and everything on the label depending on how many servings you consume.”
But some ingredients are essential for healthy diets—and the more of those, the better.
“Things you do like to see are the dietary fiber, soluble fiber, and nutrients,” said Hazen.
When it comes to the ingredients on the label, there are also clues in the order of the ingredients as listed. The Food and Drug Administration mandates that labels list ingredients in descending order, from the most prevalent item in the food down to the least prevalent.
“A good thing in your first five ingredients is to not have sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, or bleached flour,” Hazen recommends.
So, if any of those items are listed as the first ingredients on a nutrition label, you might want to put that food option back on the shelf.
Hazen even has a recommendation on which section of the store you should focus on and that’s the outside perimeter.
“Generally more natural, less processed food is on the perimeter of the store,” Hazen said.
Good tips for a healthier trip to the grocery story.