Healthy Grocery Shopping – that’s how it works!
Going to your supermarket nearby in order to buy your daily groceries sounds easier than it is. Without a shopping list, it is difficult to find your way in the food jungle, especially when it comes to healthy food choices. What appears to be healthy at first glance is certainly not always the best choice. Colourful food packaging, advertising promises, discount offers and oversupply of food make things actually pretty complicated. The result of these obstacles is a fully-packed shopping trolley – but in fact not with what we really wanted, or with goods that help us to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
But, healthy eating starts in the supermarket. So make sure you buy high-quality and healthy food, in order to be prepared also for stressful times. Conscious and well-planned grocery shopping helps you to have healthy food supplies at home and saves time, too. You can also prepare healthy meals with a full pantry or have access to good snacks when you need them quickly.
Test your knowledge and Uncover nutritional myths
Recognising the food lies
Fresh and juicy fruit on the packaging whets the appetite and entices people to buy the product. This does not mean, however, that the pictured fruits or other high-quality ingredients are actually contained. A strawberry yogurt, for example, does not always consist of strawberries, but sometimes the fruit content is apple pieces coloured with the juice of beetroot. The fruit yogurts are then given their flavour by artificial flavouring agents from the chemical laboratory.
Product names also often promise more than the product actually delivers or deceive the consumer. This is why a fitness muesli often still contains huge amounts of sugar or a grain bread does not contain whole grain. Even so-called “clean labels” for food without artificial additives such as flavour enhancers, aromas, colourings etc. are only “without” at first glance. Manufacturers like to use yeast extract, seasoning or soy sauce as flavour enhancers, as these do not have to be declared as such according to food law.
Organic food contains more health-promoting plant secondary metabolits and organic animal products from grazing livestock have a healthier composition of fats compared to conventional food. In addition, organic products contain fewer additives, a lower pesticide load and are subject to stricter guidelines. But organic is not just organic, because there are many different standards. German supermarkets are constantly expanding their range of organic products and are bringing organic private labels into circulation.
Such products only meet the EU’s ecological criteria. The EU-organic label requires that 95% of the ingredients must come from organic farming. Other foods carry organic labels from associations such as Demeter, Bioland or Naturland. The association labels at least meet the EU requirements – but usually they have higher standards and much stricter criteria. For example, food with such labels must come from 100% organic farming and may not contain any genetically modified material.
The food industry uses around 70 different names for added sugar: apple syrup, dextrose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, fruit sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, lactose, whey product, sweet whey powder, whole milk powder, skimmed milk powder, dextrose, barley malt extract, glucose-fructose syrup, glucose syrup, glucose, etc. For this reason, attention should be paid to the ingredient list in the case of foods bearing advertising slogans such as “only with natural fruit sweetener” or “low sugar” and all highly processed foods. This includes supposed “fitness” foods, breakfast cereals and fruit drinks, which often contain a high proportion of sugar.
Important: Foods that naturally contain sugar (e.g. fruit, natural yoghurt, quark, sugar-free dairy products and cereal products) do not contain added sugar and therefore support a sugar-conscious diet. Sugar-free shopping therefore means replacing foods with added sugar with foods that naturally contain sugar.
Many manufacturers advertise with products from the region or from the country. But these terms are not protected by law and can be freely interpreted. Suppliers usually define the terms more broadly than consumers would do. The products usually do not really come from a nearby region. The regional label on products is voluntary and provides information on the region of origin, the place of processing, the proportion of regional ingredients used and the supervisory authority and is therefore a good guide. However, the products can be marketed throughout Germany, so a food product originating in Bavaria can also be sold as “regional” in Hamburg.
Advice on sustainable food purchasing
There are various reasons for shopping seasonally and regionally: the reduced environmental impact of shorter transport distances, the fact that food is fresher and therefore full of nutrients and the support of the local economy. In addition, seasonal, domestic fruit and vegetables usually contain fewer residues of plant protection products than imported goods.
“Best before…” on a food indicates the point in time until which an unopened food retains its specific properties such as taste, smell and nutritional content when properly stored. Even after the expiry date, these foods are often still edible and do not need to be disposed of directly. “To be consumed by…” is written on packaged, highly perishable food that is susceptible to germ contamination. It indicates the last day on which the food can still be consumed. Examples are minced meat, fresh meat products, smoked fish, fish products, delicatessen salads and pre-cut salads.
If you shop in a supermarket, there is no way around packaging: around 90 per cent of food is only available in packaging, or only plastic bags are available for packing vegetables. The advantages of plastic compared to alternative and natural materials are obvious. It is lighter, stronger, more durable and, above all, much cheaper to produce. But the disadvantages are as obvious as they are many and varied. And packaging does not only contribute to the waste problem: Time and again, harmful substances get into the food through them. In most cases, we only absorb very small quantities of undesirable substances that enter the food through the packaging, which are generally harmless to health. Nevertheless, some of the things we pick up on the food shelf should not go unnoticed.
Smart grocery shopping
Not only what, but also in what condition we go grocery shopping influences our choice of food. We have two decision-making areas, which means that we make decisions in different ways. Among other things, our mental attention determines whether a (un)healthy choice of food is made. In other words, the higher the level of attention, the healthier the nutritional decisions. This means that when we are tired, unhealthy food tends to end up in the shopping trolley. Under stress, and this includes when we are hungry, we tend to make automatic decisions that are effortless, fast and uncontrolled. So when you go shopping hungry, tired or stressed, impulse shopping is the result.
Labels, colourful pictures, per portion information and advertising texts do not always make it immediately apparent whether a particular food is “healthier”. That is why you should only look for two pieces of information when it comes to food – the nutrient table based on 100g and the ingredient list. The nutrient table helps you to compare different foods, e.g. in terms of sugar or calories per 100g. You will be surprised how much protein is in a standard quark compared to “protein products”. From the ingredient list you can see what exactly the food contains the most, because the ingredients are listed according to the amounts of “much to little”.