Last week I exclusively revealed what goes into my shopping trolley on a weekly basis. This time out I want to talk about the products I tend to avoid when I’m at the supermarket. I like to buy food and drinks that are healthy, nutritious and from a reliable source. If I’m not sure a product meets all of these criteria then I just won’t add it to my cart. Besides, it’s not like we’re short of alternatives these days.
Here’s 6 items that will never make it to the checkout while I'm steering the trolley:
1. Processed Meat
Supermarket shelves are stuffed with processed meat in plastic packaging. These products have been lashed with preservatives and salt in order to preserve them on the shelf for as long as possible. Any nutritional value that these meats once had has long since been washed away. Cook your own joints of fresh lean meat or chicken at home and use these cuts for dinners, sandwiches and salads instead.
2. Soft Drinks or Juices
Fizzy drinks are not good for you, simple as that. They offer little or no nutritional value plus they are brimming with sugar and other bad stuff. I’m not a fan of the zero sugar drinks either as you can be sure they have some other artificial sweetener in there giving it a sweet taste.
Other drinks surprisingly high in sugar are juice cartons. Some brands promote these fruit juices as healthy options however the truth is that many of them contain as much sugar as a can of coke. The Guardian newspaper published an article last year outlining how fruit juices had moved from a health food to a junk food! (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/17/how-fruit-juice-health-food-junk-food)
Eat real fruit instead or get yourself a Nutribullet and make your own juices. For hydration (and zero calories), nothing quenches your thirst like water.
3. Sauces / Dressings
The bad news is that packaged and bottled sauces and dressings are not that good for you, despite the fact they can taste really great! High on my offenders list are pasta sauces (especially creamy sauces), ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and any salad dressing. All of these have a high calorie and sugar content. Imagine pouring fatty oils and sugar all over your salad? That’s what you’re doing with the majority of packaged salad dressings. It’s no wonder the first salads McDonalds brought out had more calories than a Big Mac, they were drenched in dressing!
Soy is great for a stir fry but unfortunately has a really high sodium content. Some reasonably healthy options that sometimes sneak onto my grocery list are hummus and mustard. There are quite a few different types and brands though so read the packaging carefully and choose the best option for you.
4. Packaged / Canned Soups
I’m a big fan of soup and usually find myself having a bowl every second day or so. I always make my own soup when I can as it’s such a great way to pack lots of nutrients into one delicious bowl. My favourite soup is probably closer to a stew with lots of chunky vegetables chopped up, mixed with diced garlic and onion, some lean cuts of meat and some green or red lentils. With a pressure cooker it’s so easy to pile all of the above into the pot and let boiling water and high temperatures do the rest for 30 to 45 minutes.
There are probably some healthy packaged and canned soups out there but from what I’ve read (and tasted) there seems to be a very high sodium content to a lot of them plus if you read the packaging, the vitamin, mineral and fibre content seems to be very low despite the supposed quality ingredients. If you want to get the full nutritional whack from soups then you need to make your own.
5. Flavoured Yoghurt
Yoghurt’s are another product that have perceived health and nutrition benefits associated with them when that’s not necessarily the case. Flavoured yoghurt's in particular are another huge sugar offender. A lot of flavoured yoghurt's contain puréed fruit rather than the real thing eliminating any of the benefits that real whole fruits would provide.
Plain Greek yoghurt on the other hand has some decent benefits such as protein, potassium, vitamin D and calcium. Add in some real fresh fruit to your Greek yoghurt to increase the nutritional value and stay away from the flavoured sugar filled alternatives.
6. Crisps and Biscuits
These two are the “go to” option when its snack time for a lot of households. A very simple way of introducing healthier snacks into your diet is to a) have plenty of fruits and nuts to hand and b) just don’t buy crisps and biscuits! As simple as it seems, if you don’t have access to these unhealthy foods when hunger comes calling then you can’t eat them.
Most crisps are laden with trans fats, salt and empty calories, plus the bags seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Biscuits are very high in sugar and therefore calories too. They can also have high levels of unhealthy trans fats. My advice is to avoid both of these if you can.
Consuming a few of the above items every now and then won’t kill you. Personally though I just like to get into a good habit. There’s plenty of healthy alternatives out there so that I don’t need to consider any of the above.
A healthy food habit isn't formed overnight. If you want to make changes to your diet then I'm not in favour of the big bang approach. Instead, start eliminating some offending items from your grocery list gradually from week to week.
It’s OK to treat yourself every now and then but keep track of what you’re eating, don’t over indulge and try and make it the exception rather than the norm.
As I said previously, I try to eat well more often than I don’t and that plan is working well for me. A healthy eating plan starts in the supermarket so lead by example and exercise discipline when behind the trolley!