Friday, September 17, 2010

What to Eat - Guide to the Healthiest Shopping

I picked up this great book today, Cooking Light What to Eat: A Real-World Guide to Making Smart Choices. It's full of pictures and seems to have all kind of tips for picking and shopping for the healthiest foods.

 It starts out with these 10 tips to healthy eating:
  1. Base meals on items from the grocery store perimeter. Shopping along the outside edges of the grocery store is the easiest way to amp up the nutritional value of what you eat. The perimeter is where the majority if stores feature inherently healthy foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meats, poultry and dairy products.
  2. Compare apples to apples (and chicken to chicken). Compare the prices of similar things. Make sure you’re comparing pound per pound and serving per serving. If you’re considering a $7.50 package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts vs. a $3.50 whole chicken, that’ $7.50 package with two chicken breasts is just over a pound and will fee two to three people, while the whole chicken is more than three pounds and will feed four, as well as make homemade chicken stock or soup.
  3. Look high and low. Prime product placement in grocery store goes for a premium price—vendors sometimes pay retailers thousands of dollars for placement at middle and eye-level shelves. These products may be some of the healthiest and most affordable ones, but make sure you also check the upper and lower shelves for good (and nutritious) deals.
  4. Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk the foods you eat often can save you money. Steel-cut oats bought from the bulk bin, for instance, are $0.89 per pound, while a tin runs $3.35 a pound. Lentils, beans, and chickpeas are also great bulk savers, as well as large bags of rice.
  5. Buy seasonally. Seasonal produce offers more than just freshness and delicious taste—it also saves money. Cucumbers are a great example. They are generally bargains when bought in season but out of season, they have to travel from afar and can cost several dollars per pound. Stay attuned to the seasons so that you’re shopping for the freshest ingredients at the best prices.
  6. Read the Nutritional Facts labels and ingredients lists. Since 1994, the FDA has required products to carry Nutritional Facts labels that list the amount of calories, calories from fat, total and saturated fat, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron per serving The most recent addition is trans fat (added in 2006). Read these labels: studies show that those who read Nutritional Facts labels are more likely to eat less foods high in fat that those who don’t.
  7. Make sure you understand what all the health claims really mean. You’ll find a variety of health claims—trans fat free, made with whole grains, all natural—splashed across the packages of a variety of products, but those healthy-sounding phrases don’t always tell the whole story. For example, a package may say “trans fat free,” but, by law, a product can claim to be trans fat free if it has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving. Be sure to check the ingredient list to be sure you don’t see the words “partially hydrogenated oil.”
  8. Store brands can be just as good as brand names. Store-brand products can be tasty and nutritious, and they can help keep your grocery bill in check. Store brands can cost a fraction of the price of brand names—around 25% less. The difference in price is usually not from differences in what goes into the food but rather the marketing and promotion costs that come with building a brand into a household favorite.
  9. Weigh the cost of convenience foods. With convenience comes a heftier price tag. For example, whole broccoli runs $1.69 per pound, while a bag of precut broccoli florets comes in at $3.36 per pound. In cases such as these, you might want to consider if the extra cost is really worth the time saved by having someone else cut up your broccoli for you.
  10. Shop for bargains. Check your local grocery store’s weekly circular, or look for specials at the store to plan meals around the items that are on sale. When there’s a sale on items you use regularly, take advantage and buy extra.

Can't wait to see what other gems are in this book!

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