How to Be A Smarter Grocery Shopper at Supermarkets (Giant, Tesco, Cold Storage etc)

food labels, grocery shopping

How much time do you spend checking food labels when you’re busy rushing through your grocery list? Do you know exactly what you’re consuming every morning in that honey-coated breakfast cereal? How about that low-fat strawberry yogurt you’re snacking on at the moment?

If you don’t know what you’re eating, that could be the cause of your H&M pant-size increase.

“Fat-Free!”, “Low-Cholesterol!”

It’s very important to realise that most product packaging is usually for marketing purposes. They want you to grab the box off the shelf. So lines like “fat-free” or “all natural” doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. Most of the time it might be half-true promises made by the food industry to steer you away from their competitors.

This label, although tiny and seemingly unimportant, is the one weapon you can use to make better food decisions. Food labels tell you:

  • the weight, measure, or count
  • the nutrient facts
  • the product ingredients (including all the additives, colours, and chemical preservatives)
  • the manufacturer, packer, or distributor name and address

The chart below shows the nutrients you want very little of. Compare your food labels with this chart to see if the food label claims (ie: low sugar, sugar-free) are justified.

Consume less:

Fat: This is a nutrient crucial to your body function. However, when too much fat is consumed and accumulated in your body, it will lead to obesity.

Cholesterol: This is produced by your liver and helps you make vitamin D, hormones, build cell walls, and help you digest fat. Your liver actually produces enough cholesterol for your body functions so getting any more from food sources is pointless. Too much cholesterol clogs up your arteries and could eventually lead to heart diseases.

Trans fatty acid: These are synthetically made fats that aren’t natural. They’re created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetables to make them solid. Consuming trans fats increases your bad LDL cholesterol level while lowering your good HDL cholesterol, putting you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Saturated fat: These are different from regular fat. They’re completely saturated and every molecule is covered in hydrogen atoms. Too much of this could raise your cholesterol and lead to heart disease and possibly stroke.

Sugars: The amount listed here is a combination of natural occuring sugars (like those in fruits) and added sugar (condensed milk). Sugar is a vital part of your fuel, however many people are taking in much more sugar than they need. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and other diseases.

Sodium: Sodium is found in salt. Too much sodium and you’re at higher risk of contracting high blood pressure, which can lead to serious health problems like heart failure and kidney disease if left unchecked.

6 Super Easy Steps to Buying Smarter:

1. Read the ingredients list

It has to include everything used to manufacture the food item so the sneaky food producers can’t lie here.

2. Check the order of ingredients

The rule of thumb is that the ingredients list is ordered by the quantity used. The earlier something is listed, the more there is in your food. main ingredient (the one with the highest quantity used in production) is listed first. So, if something you don’t want too much of (like sugar) is among the first few ingredients listed on the box, maybe you should think about putting it back on the shelf.

3. Go for less number of ingredients

The less ingredients a product has, the better. If you see an ingredients list filled with 20 different scientific-sounding names that you don’t understand, stay away. They’re probably chemicals that won’t do you any good.

4. Understand the serving size

Some serving sizes can be very deceitful. You might think you’ve only consumed 150 calories by eating that candy bar, but look again. Yup. It’s actually two servings per bar. This means you’ve actually consumed 300 calories. The same goes for drinks. So read the labels carefully.

5. Check the sugar content

Food items that parade their “fat-free” or “low-fat” status typically have lots of added sugar to compensate for taste. Next time you’re shopping for fat-free yogurt, check your food label first.

6. Know your recommended nutrition intake (RNI)

Most food labels include a % RNI beside the nutrition facts. It tells you how many percent a serving of the food item will contribute to your recommended daily intake. If one serving of that bag of chips is contributing to 50% of your RNI of saturated fats, you probably should think twice.


Have you been deceived by any food labels? Share your experience with us!


Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Adapted from: “Buying it Smart” by Dr Norazlanshah Hazali, Food Safety and Therapy Consultant

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