Most of us enter the grocery store with good intentions: to leave with nutritious food. But when you read the packaging on your average grocery store items, it seems like everything is “good for you;” Organic crackers, grain-infused waffles and vitamin-loaded breakfast bars are just some of the packaged foods that boast healthful benefits. But how can you tell which products are good choices vs. those that are just junk food in disguise?
It boils down to two things: knowing the difference between healthy and sneaky ingredients, and then seeing where they fall on the ingredient list.
The biggest trend right now are packaged foods that tout whole grains, like crackers, bars, cookies, pancakes and pizza, according to Sara Yen, registered dietician at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center. The caveat is in the ratio of whole grains (or lack thereof) in relation to the rest of the ingredients.
Know what regulations mean. Yen points out that according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, any cereal that claims to be a “good source of whole grains” has to have 8 grams of whole grains per serving. Cereal that has an “excellent source of whole grains” contains 16 grams per serving.
What takes some detective work is finding out how big the serving is, and what else you’re eating in order to obtain the whole grain benefits. “Having 8 grams of whole grains in a 50-gram serving isn’t getting the biggest bang for your caloric buck,” says Yen. “Consider the ratio of what you’re eating—what are those other 42 grams made up of?” …
When moms talk about the trials and tribulations of feeding their children, the conversations typically center on what types of foods their kids like and dislike. How to get young Jim to eat green beans. Whether it’s healthy for Gracie to avoid meat entirely. You rarely hear parents discussing whether their kids are getting the right percentages of specific nutrients and additives, the correct amount of starch or sodium.
But while a nutrient-centric view of food isn’t in tune with how most people think about their food intake, it’s exactly how the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans approaches the subject. …