Simple Supermarket Hacks for Healthy Eating
By Samantha Gemmell
Ever realised you’re walking to the very back of the supermarket, passing the tempting possibilities to get your basic bread and milk? The supermarket is definitely not set up for you to eat well! It’s set up to sell you products – and as many as possible. But there are some simple supermarket hacks you can use to navigate the store. These are a few to get you started.
Get 90% of your food from the outside of the supermarket
The perimeter of the supermarket is made up of perishable foods. Meat, eggs, dairy, fruit, vegetables and deli items are typically found on the outskirts.
By eating food made up of mostly these ingredients, you’re filling up on nourishing wholefoods. And by minimising food from the aisles, you’re avoiding foods that are usually treated with additives to make them last longer. As a bonus, you’ll also walk past fewer ‘tempting’ food purchases.
Have you ever noticed that tropical fruit is cheaper in summer, and citrus in winter? That’s because farms can grow bigger crops when a fruit or vegetable is in season. The good news is, in-season produce is often more nutritious, and it will taste better.
Not sure what’s in season? Look for the fruit and veg that are up the front of the section. Most are priced around a few dollars per kilo when in season, depending on the item.
Ignore the front of the package
Health claims can be pretty damn deceiving at the best of times. The team who designed the front of that package was a marketing and branding professional and did so to lure you in, not to educate you! Any claim on the front of the packet does not necessarily equate to healthiness.
Gluten-free? Can still be packed with refined carbohydrates. Sugar-free? Can be filled with artificial sweeteners that upset your tummy and mess with your nervous system. All-natural? Can still be 90% sugar. Vegan? Oreos are vegan, doesn’t make them a good choice.
Even the percentages and amounts on the front can be deceptive. It might claim that it’s less than 10% of your recommended amount of sugar – but that’s based on the serving size, not the whole packet.
Learn some label basics
So if you can’t trust the front of the packet, what can you trust? That’s where we flip it over to the back and look at the info they are legally obliged to list.
Sugar is one thing that everyone is aware of these days. Calculating the sugar content of an item is easy. Simply look at the grams of sugar in the per 100g column. If it says 10g of sugar, that means it’s 10% sugar. The same goes for the content of other nutrients, like protein, saturated fat and fibre.
Keep the numbers down
I prefer my foods to have as few ingredients as possible, but it can depend on the food. So the rule of thumb is that if there are lots of ingredients, make sure they are actual foods and not just numbers.
Numbers on the ingredients list are food additives of some kind. And while not all are bad, stick to lists with as few numbers as possible.
Don’t make perfect the enemy of good
It’s easy to be a bit judgey with food, especially as a nutritionist. But at the end of the day, not everyone has the time, budget or care factor to eat 100% organic wholefoods, sourced locally, ethical and so on. So I’m a big believer in making good choices with food, not the best choices.
For example, pre-cut veggies are convenient, even though they might not be ideal. But are they better than you not eating vegetables at all? They sure are.
Take small steps to improve what you eat. They do add up in the end.
Samantha Gemmell is a qualified nutritionist, health writer and speaker. Her passion lies in the power of food and the belief that there is no one perfect diet for everyone. Although she wears many hats within her industry, her end goal remains the same: making health simple, actionable and evidence-based. Samantha is regularly featured as an expert in MSN Health, Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine, Wellspring Magazine and The Cusp.