"Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide"
David Zinczenko, editor of Men's Health magazine and author of Eat This, Not That, has some good news: the unhealthy choices we make when we go grocery shopping may not be our fault. "When you walk into a supermarket," he says, "it's like walking onto the set of Lost -- you're on this island and there are all these cool things to discover, but nothing is at it appears. You've got these 50,000 products and everything is screaming all the buzz words at you: 'Reduced Fat!' and '100% Natural' and all this stuff that doesn't necessarily mean anything." David points out several food pitfalls that you need to be aware of in order to safely survive your next grocery store journey.
• Portion distortion. "The way your mother or grandmother was eating 30 or 40 years ago is not the way we're eating today," David says, citing studies showing that salty snacks have 93 more calories now per serving size, and soda has 50 more calories. "If you're ingesting this," he points out, "it means every 25 days you're gaining another pound that you have to learn to work off or live with."
• Supersizing. "We're spending 17 percent more money to get 55 percent more calories," David tells Rachael. "It's not a good investment unless you want to invest in flab, because the cheapest ingredients are always going to be salt, sugar, fat -- these are the things that are coming into the diet."
• High-fructose corn syrup. "It's in all of these things where you wouldn't expect it to be," David explains, pointing out that this sugar can be found in items like pasta sauce, yogurt and multi-grain bread. "And all of that sugar is causing us to put on unnecessary pounds, especially when you couple that with the fact that when we go out to eat we're consistently underestimating by almost 100 percent the calories we're taking in. That really adds up."
• Meat and poultry. "Studies have shown that chicken today is 266 percent fattier than it was in 1971," David says. He explains that years ago, chickens used to roam free, grazing on grass and vegetables. "Now they're eating like we're eating: soy, corn and other animals. You see what happened to us over the last 20 years, this is what's happening to them." David suggests looking for organic or free-range, boneless chicken, and lean meats like flank, sirloin beef or pork tenderloin.
Fruits and vegetables. "Studies over the last fifty years of fruits and vegetables have shown that 6 out of 13 nutrients have seen major decline -- calcium, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin -- the nutrients that we really need," says David, who suggests looking for the best of the best: sweet potatoes, strawberries, spinach and carrots. "Think of it like a traffic light," he says. "If you see yellow, green and red, stop and get some."
Shop on Wednesday nights. "Four percent of people are shopping on a Wednesday," he says, which makes it the perfect time for you to hit the aisles. "You have your run of the store, you can get your essential stuff and get out. And go after you've eaten dinner -- you never shop when you're hungry."
Check yourself out. "The self-service lines are barren," David says. "You don't have anything around you to distract you. Women do 32 percent less impulse shopping when they use self-checkout."
Shop the perimeter. Think of the store like a donut -- it's a nutritional black hole in the middle of the supermarket where you tend to see the candy and the snacks and all that other stuff. "Seventy-five percent of your time should be spent around the store getting your dairy, your lean protein, your produce -- that's where you want to be. Only 25 percent of your time should be venturing into those middle aisles and looking around."
Pay attention to the serving size. You might be consuming more calories than you think. In researching his book, David actually weighed certain foods like breads and granolas, and in some cases they found 35% more calories in similar-looking serving sizes. "Know that a three or four-ounce beef or fish serving is the size of a deck of cards," David adds, recommending that you measure out foods like cereal whenever you can. A serving size might be listed as 110 calories, but you might unintentionally be consuming 600 calories -- almost half your daily calories -- if you pour yourself a big bowl.
Bread. Skip all the buzz words on the front of the package like "100% Natural" (David jokes that hurricanes are also natural -- it doesn't mean they're good for you) and go right to the nutrition label. "You want at least three grams of fiber per 100 calories," David says, adding that you don't want your bread to contain more than six or seven ingredients. "There are breads out there with over 50 ingredients -- you have become someone's lab experiment at that point!"
Produce. Don't be deceived by fruit that has a nice waxy, glistening look. You've got to go beyond that, David says, because sometimes seemingly sub-par, less visually appealing fruit might be fine. "Pick it up," he advises. "It should be sturdy, which means it has all of its moisture and it hasn't dried out. It should be heavy, and it should have a strong clean scent."
Frozen foods. Make sure that there's not a lot of frosted ice on the packaging, which could be a sign that it may have been mishandled. Also, David suggests that it should still be vacuum sealed, otherwise air and moisture may have crept in. "And watch the salt content," David warns. "Sometimes you could have half of your day's sodium allowance in one item." He uses a frozen chicken pot pie as an example -- it could have the same amount of sodium as 30 strips of bacon!
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