Shopping for healthy foods can be tricky unless you know a few tips for how to figure out how healthy a food is for you. Food packaging can be so deceiving since even the foods with added vitamins and minerals or that are whole grain, can be laced with sugar and filled with chemicals. But not to worry, once you getinto the swing of looking for certain things on a food package, it becomes an automatic instinct to know which foods are healthy for you and which ones aren’t. Try looking at a few of these signs below to figure out how healthy a food is next time you're at the store. In no time you'll be a pro at healthy shopping and at healthy eating!
1. Fiber Vs. Sugar
When first trying to figure out how healthy a food is, look at the carbohydrate content and see how much of those carbs are dedicated to fiber. Right under the carbohydrate amounts on a nutrition panel, you’ll see different amounts for fiber and sugar. Optimally fiber should be at least 3 grams or more, and sugar should be 3 grams or less per serving.
While you don’t need to go protein-crazy, you do need to ensure you get enough to fuel your muscles, slow down your blood sugar, and sustain you for longer. Optimally, if you buy something packaged, it’s great if it has 5 grams of protein and is made from a whole food source.
Cholesterol only exists in animal-based foods and it’s essential to monitor your cholesterol for healthy heart levels. Check the cholesterol levels on the back panel on all processed foods you buy. The amount should optimally be lower than 5% of your daily values (DV) as the healthiest option, while 0% is even better.
Processed soy is filled with genetically modified ingredients (also known as GMOs), and very inflammatory to your body. It's also harsh on your endocrine system and can affect your hormones negatively in a short amount of time. If soy is listed in the ingredient list, be sure it comes from a non-GMO source if you choose to buy it at all.
I think healthy fats are essential for maintaining a healthy body, so don’t go for fat-free items unless they’re naturally fat-free such as produce, egg whites, etc. If you buy packaged food, however, be sure that the fat doesn’t come from oils, especially in hydrogenated forms or from whole milk, butter, cheese, etc.
Not only is it essential to read the ingredient list on every product you buy, but you should also see how many ingredients it has. It’s always a good idea to avoid foods that have more than 5 ingredients, and optimally, they’ll have no more than 3 ingredients.
7. Processed Vs. Whole
The best way to figure out how healthy a food is for you is to choose whole foods over processed foods. Then, the guesswork is taken away for you. Whole foods like produce don’t need a nutrition panel to tell you how healthy they are. Remember, the cleaner your food is, the healthier it is for you.
It’s easier to take care of yourself when you feel confident about your food choices. Empower yourself with these tips and you’ll be a healthy shopper in no time! Do you have your own trick for how to figure out if a food is healthy or not? Feel free to share. I’m always up for new ideas!