6 Mistakes People Make While Shopping For Healthy Groceries

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Shopping for healthy groceries is on top of any healthy living checklist. But, most products are deceptively healthy. Gluten-free products miss out on fiber, B vitamins, iron, and calcium. Fruit juices increase blood sugar levels and lack fiber. Energy bars have excess calories and sugar. Organic produce is not necessarily healthier than conventional produce. Imported food is lower in nutritional quality than local and seasonal food. The color of eggshells doesn't indicate nutritional quality.

If the words of health magazines, dieticians, and fitness videos are anything to go by, the key to leading a healthy lifestyle is simple. All we need to do is eat clean and work out regularly. But, while the latter only needs you to sign up for a gym membership, the former needs you to shop for, cook, and eat the right kind of food.

Although grocery shopping is something all of us are familiar with, it’s shopping for nutritious and healthy products that have most of us stumped. And, even if we do end up spending hours reading labels, most of us head home with foods that are deceptively healthy. If you’re sweating it out on the treadmill but still have miles to go before you can call yourself fit, here are a few mistakes you could be making.

1. Opting For Gluten-Free Products

"Gluten-free" doesn't mean healthy.

One of the many fads that surround the health food industry is the one centered on gluten-free products being healthier. But, there is no research that proves that ditching the grain will help people lose weight easily or be healthier. In fact, going gluten-free might deprive you of several vital nutrients.

Fortified bread and cereal are the most common sources of B vitamins in the United States. And, gluten-free alternatives are not generally fortified, causing deficiencies in people who follow a gluten-free diet. Additionally, the American diet is deficient in fiber.

Whole wheat, which is avoided in this diet, is a major source of fiber for most Americans, making it crucial to their diets. Besides this, people on a gluten-free diet tend to have iron and calcium deficiencies as well.1

Studies have shown that low intake of whole grains in people without celiac disease might lead to an increased risk of heart disease.2 To add to this, some gluten-free products might be high in sugar and calories, which might worsen your health.

Hence, opt for gluten-free products only if you have gluten sensitivity or have celiac disease. If you suspect that you have either of these conditions, make sure to check with a professional first, since it’s hard to diagnose when you’ve avoided gluten for a while.

2. Loading Up On Fruit Juices

Fruit juices lack fiber.

While fruits have an important place in a healthy diet, the same can’t be said for fruit juice. And, this holds true even if you’re going for the cold-pressed, seemingly “healthy” options.

When juiced, fruits lose their fiber, which is important to any diet. And, since fiber regulates blood sugar, fruit juices are also more likely to increase your blood-sugar levels than a whole fruit.

Increasing evidence also states that drinking isn’t as satiating as eating whole foods, perhaps due to the lack of fiber. This might lead to overeating that will build up your caloric intake.3

Additionally, studies indicate that people who drink juices tend to add them to their diets instead of substituting them for other foods, which also increases caloric intake. Hence, it’s best to leave that can of orange juice on the aisle and head on over to the local produce aisle, instead.4

3. Grabbing An Energy Bar

Energy bars are high in sugar.

Most of us stock up on energy bars to have them for breakfast during hectic mornings, give us a quick boost of energy after a workout, or serve as a snack during work. But, most energy bars only pile on the calories.

Manufacturers of energy bars claim that the bars are superior to candy bars because they contain an “ideal ratio” of simple to complex carbohydrates, along with protein and fat. However, most bars have added chocolate, chocolate icing, and added sugar and artificial flavorings. And, research conducted on these bars found that they were no better at providing energy than candy bars.

When it comes to protein and carbs, it’s important to remember that all macros need to fit into one’s general diet. So, if you’re already having a healthy diet, these bars are just going to add more sugar and calories to your diet.5

Instead, make your own bars and snacks at home or go for nuts instead. If you do choose to eat a protein bar anyway, make sure to burn the excess calories when you’re working out.6

4. Only Buying Organic Products

"Organic" produce isn't more nutritious.

Most of us opt for products that have the label “organic,” because it is believed that they’re healthier. But, there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove that organic foods are any more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.7

However, if you are looking to eat food that is not genetically modified or is grown without artificial pesticides, then it’s worth noting that not all products labeled organic are 100% organic.

Any product that’s labeled “100% organic” and “organic” have ingredients that are certified organic. Generally, they have the USDA seal on them. But, products that are “made with organic ingredients” or have “specific organic ingredients,” have 70% or less organic ingredients.

So, do check the organic certifying source for each product and ensure it’s valid and recognized. Additionally, check the ingredients list of all products irrespective of what the label says.8

5. Buying Imported Food

Imported food lacks nutrients.

Inspired by recipe videos on social media, most of us load up on imported food to make “healthy” dishes. But, shopping for imported food might not mean that you’re getting any vital nutrients.

According to Ayurveda, eating seasonal and local produce is healthier than opting for imported products. One reason for this could be the fact that food that’s shipped tends to lose its nutritional value due to exposure to air, artificial lights, and temperature changes.9

Local and seasonal produce, however, is fresh and flavorful. Additionally, considering the fact that these foods are generally at their peak when they’re sold, they’re bound to be full of nutrients. So, head to the farmer’s market or the fresh produce aisle more often.10

6. Choosing Eggs Based On Their Shell Color

Brown eggs aren't healthier than white ones.

For a long time, it was believed that eggs with a brown shell were more nutritious than those with a white shell. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The color and size of an egg are determined by the breed of hens. Hence, there are white, cream, brown, blue, green, and speckled eggs. Additionally, the color of the yolk is also not reflective of the nutritional value but the type of poultry feed.11

All that needs to be checked when it comes to eggs is that they should be clean, stored in a refrigerator under 40° F or in a refrigerator case, and have no cracked shells. This will help you avoid salmonella poisoning as well.12

Shopping for healthy foods at the grocery store might seem like an impossible task, but isn’t. All you have to do is be aware of the mistakes mentioned above and do the opposite. This way, you’re sure to come home with bags full of nutritious food.

References   [ + ]

1. Going gluten-free just because? Here’s what you need to know. Harvard Health Publishing.
2. Lebwohl, Benjamin, Yin Cao, Geng Zong, Frank B. Hu, Peter HR Green, Alfred I. Neugut, Eric B. Rimm et al. “Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study.” bmj 357 (2017): j1892.
3. Dietary Fiber. Food And Drug Administration.
4. Are fresh juice drinks as healthy as they seem? Harvard Health Publishing.
5. Are protein bars really just candy bars in disguise? Harvard Health Publishing.
6. Eating to boost energy. Harvard Health Publishing.
7. Organic food no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Harvard Health Publishing.
8. Understanding the USDA Organic Label. US Department Of Agriculture.
9. Morningstar, Amadea. Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles. Lotus Press, 1995.
10. Eating local food has great benefits. Indiana State Personnel.
11. Eggs. Harvard T.H. Chan.
12. Egg Safety: What You Need to Know. Food And Drug Administration.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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