Here are the 5 most common mistakes made when shopping for packaged foods in the grocery store. It is easy to make these mistakes because food manufacturers want you to buy their products and what you see or think you see is not always what you are buying. It is easy to choose packages and bottles that look like one serving but are really 2-3 servings, or to buy items that contain way too much sodium, or imagine that sugar free is calorie free. Here are the 5 biggest shopping mistakes:
1. Ignore the label. Just grab all of your food off the shelf with no regard to a food label.
2. Think that one package or bottle is one serving. Chocolate bars, cookie snack packages, and bottles of tea can often look like one serving but be many more. So a quick glance at the calories in these foods and beverages can steer you wrong if you fail to see the number of servings at the top of the label.
3. Ignore the sodium. Some foods actually contain a whole day's supply of sodium while supplying very little calories. Frozen foods, canned foods, and packaged foods are a greater source of sodium than the salt shaker.
4. Sugar free or fat free is not calorie free. Some desserts look so delicious and they tempt us with claims of sugar free. But if you compare their calories they are not often that much different from their regular counterparts and most are not "diet" foods.
5. Package sounds healthier than the real nutrition facts. The fried frozen fish that says trans fat free can actually be very high in saturated fat. There are many claims that only talk about one nutrient but you always have to read the whole label to see the whole story.
These mistakes are based on many new food reports over a period of 15 years in our newsletter Communicating Food for Health, plus a survey of hundreds of foods for a game we made for nutrition facts label reading. If you have tips on teaching label reading add them below and we will give the top 5 responses a free set of posters.
Examine the Facts
Examine the Facts teaches 3 basic steps to evaluate a product quickly based on its nutrient analysis. Label reading is as easy as 1-2-3. AND an example is given that shows why it is better to compare a label - you save a lot of fat by choosing skim milk. PLUS handy reminders show the total nutrients needed for a day.
1. Calories - what is the total number of calories in this package? What is a serving size? How many servings in this package?
2. Heart healthy - how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium does this package contain?
3. Nutritional value - how much fiber? How many other nutrients?