“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”
“No matter how meticulously edited our shopping lists are, it;s hard not to be overwhelmed the minute we set foot into the electric blue fluorescent glow of the grocery store. More than 50,000 packaged goods line the shelves of the average supermarket, and that’s before tou take into account the meat, fish, deli, and cheese counters; the produce section, with its exotic greens and 30 different kinds of apples,; the precooked quickie dinner area; the little server with the latex gloves offering a taste of chorizo and bourbon mustard or whatever else they’re pushing that day. Go in with a plan to buy 35 items, and you’ll come out with 50 of them — and wonder the next day how they ever crept into your kitchen.
And the power of supermarkets (and, um, supermarketers) to have their way with us has never been greater. A February 2009 poll by MINTEL found that 79 percent of Americans say they’re trying to eat at home more, to save money. But are we saving? An April 2009 survey by Better Homes and Gardens found that women were spending $34 more at the supermarket. Why? In part because food manufacturers are so sneaky about the ways they trick us into buying their products. That’s why it’s important for your wallet — and the part of your body that sits on it — to be smart about supermarket strategies.
Nobody wants to have to exercise discipline every time they go on a shopping trip, especially when it comes to the visceral happiness that food can bring us. Yet giving in to temptation or bad judgment at the supermarket can have consequences that last a lifetime. Because we’re creatures of habit, we tend to simply grab the same brands every time we hit the store. That’s fine, as long as we’ve chosen wisely. But the wrong choices can cost us thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of calories every year.
Consider this: let’s say that every night you have a modest dessert of two cookies, and your favorite is Oreo Cakesters Chocolate Creme. That means that every night you’re taking in 250 calories for dessert. Not a terrible nutritional crime by any means — more like a misdemeanor. But if your regular choice was Oreo Fudgees instead of the Cakesters, and you ate the same two cookies every night, by the end of the year you would have saved yourself more than 40,000 calories — the equivalent of a whopping 11 1/2 pounds.
Amazing, right? But every single choice you make in the supemarket comes with the same potential long-term consequences. Think of all the things you and your family consume on a daily or weekly basis — staples like peanut butte,r bread, nacho chips, canned fruit, salad dressings, and ice cream. Each choice can add an unnecessary 10, 50, 100 calories or more to your day — and that can very quickly add up. (Imagine those calories were dollars. You’d want to know if you were spending 100 extra dollars on something you didn’t have to, right?)
So, in this chapter, we’ve surveyed the supermarket shelves and found calorie savings here, there, and everythere. Some are little savings; some are dramatic, however, and and you will be shocked by how quickly and easily they will change your life. Regardless, start rewriting your shopping list — and try these strategies to better stick to it.
STAY AWAY FROM THE SOFT, CREAMY CENTER
That would be the soft, creamy center of the supermarket — aisles 3 through 11 in most grocery stores. While the healthy stuff like dairy, produce, meat, and seafood is usually located around the edges, the interior of the supermarket is almost always packed with highly processed foods made with corn and soy and the 3,,000 or more additives manufacturers use to make things that are edible but aren’t actually food.
AVERT YOUR EYES!
On any grocery shelf, the most highly processed, most caloric, and often most highly priced foods are about 5 feet off the ground. Why? Because that’s about where your eyes are. That’s very valuable real estate, and since supermarkets charge manufacturers for that placement, you can bet that the food marketers are figuring out a way to pass that cost on to you — either by trimming nutrition or amping up cost, or both. Reach up and kneel down, and you’ll find both price points and nutrition labels that make a lot more sense.
GET BACK TO THE EARTH
On one hand, we have an apple, a chicken, and a potato. On the other hand, a jar of applesauce, a bag of chicken nuggets, and some chips. Which hand is healthier?
Pretty simple, right? The apple has more nutrients than the sauce, the chicken has fewer carbohydrates than the nuggets, and the potato has less fat than the chips. It’s a simple rule: The closer food is to its natural form, the healthier it is for you. So until they start growing apples inside little plastic containers, stick with what Mother Nature gives you.
EAT MORE FOOD, EAT FEWER INGREDIENTS
Another important thing to keep in mind: the fewer ingredients, the better something typically is for you. (Foods with five or fewer deserve a special place in your pantry.) When apples turn into applesauce, they can often double their caloric load because of the addition of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Which would you rather eat: an apple, or a combination of apples, water, and HFCS for twice the calories?
WATCH WHO’S ON FIRST
Reading an ingredients label is like reading a baseball box score: It has plenty of information, but you need to understand what the stats mean. If you know what OBP and ERA mean, you have a good understanding of what’s happening in the game. If not, a box score just reads like a bunch of gibberish.
Nutrition labels are the same. There are two things to keep an eye on: The first is the order of ingredients — labels by law must list them in order of volume. So if the number one ingredient is, say, “spinach,” that’s good. If it’s “sugar” or “high-fructose corn syrup” or “canary droppings,” that’s probably bad. The second thing to look at is the servings per container. You’d be amazed by how a 200-calorie dish really becomes a 400-calorie dish when the little tiny dish supposedly contains two servings — even though you know you’re going to eat the whole thing.
ELIMINATE THE DRIVE-BY
A recent study found that shoppers who made “quick trips” to the store end up spending 54 percent more on groceries than they had planned. Instead, be smart about your trips. Bring a list — and a pen to cross off what you’ve already dropped into your cart. And try doing your shopping on a Wednesday evening — that’s when supermarkets are the most abandoned. This means a shorter trip and less time in the checkout aisle, eyeing the latest Jen/Brad/Angie brouhaha and those enticing little chocolate-covered crispy crackers that you don’t mean to buy, but the kids are complaining and you’re hungry and …
Derived from Eat This, Not That! by David Zinczenko
See more “Eat This, Not That” at eatthis.com
“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
– modified from : Edward Stanley (1826-1893) from The Conduct of Life