Test your supermarket smarts
Putting the healthiest choice in your shopping cart isn’t always easy, thanks to competing health claims
Source: Best Health Magazine, Spring 2008
Rate your supermarket savvy with this Q&A, created with the expertise of Winnipeg registered dietitian Gina Sunderland and data from top nutrition sources such as the Dietitians of Canada, the Mayo Clinic and the American Dietetic Association.
Q1. When choosing microwave popcorn, you reach for:
a) Light or unbuttered
b) A brand with zero trans fats
c) Regular, butter or theatre-style
A. Lighten up! Start by reviewing the fat-free and light popcorn products, then choose one that also has fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fat listed on the nutrition label. Otherwise, you may be getting more saturated fat than you bargained for. Newman’s Own and Orville Redenbacher SmartPop are two examples of trans-fat-free and fat-free popcorn.
Q2. When shopping for beefsteak, which of the following cuts is the leanest?
A. Look for the loin. Scan meat labels for tip-off words such as “round” and “loin” to indicate lean beef cuts. If it’s lamb or pork you’re shopping for, look for “loin” or “leg” to ensure the same thing. Balance these choices by frequently selecting chicken or fish, which are lower in saturated fats.
Q3. You’re making muffins and would like to make them as healthy as possible. For the fat ingredient, you choose:
a) Canola oil
c) Vegetable oil
A. Try a new fat (really!) Canola has serious bragging rights—it’s low in saturated fat, can help reduce your triglyceride levels and contains health-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a great choice for baked goods because of its light taste.
Q4. You need to get some more calcium in your diet. Which food is the best alternative to dairy?
b) Navy beans
A. Go nuts. Milk-based products are calcium gold mines (1 cup/250 mL of milk contains 300 mg), but a mere 1/2 cup (125 mL) of unsalted almonds packs 200 mg, approximately one-fifth of our daily requirement. A cup of navy beans has 130 mg of calcium, while 3/4 cup (175 mL) of cooked broccoli offers 50 mg.
Q5. You’re reaching for a toast topping. What’s your best choice?
a) Peanut butter
A. Enjoy some peanut-butter goodness. Bet you didn’t know that peanut butter can help lower your cholesterol and fight heart disease, thanks to healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, folic acid and magnesium. Look for brands without the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list, to avoid trans fats. Better yet, you can opt for organic nut butters, which are naturally trans-fat-free. Traditional jams have high sugar counts—as much as 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Butter contains saturated fat and cholesterol, but it also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps fight cancer, among other benefits.
Q6. You love cheese but know it can be loaded with unhealthy fats. So which cheese is your best pick?
a) Light cheese (with 18% milk fat [MF])
b) Strong cheese such as aged cheddar or blue
A. Reach for light cheeses. They have about one-third less fat than regular cheeses but pack more flavour than rubbery, fat-free varieties. (Any cheese with less than 22% MF is a good bet.) Other options include string cheese or even a strong cheese such as blue—both of which encourage portion control.
Q7. Winter’s coming and you want to stock up on your vitamin C. Which of these vegetables is the best source?
a) Bell peppers
Go for peppers. Half a cup (125 mL) of red pepper slices delivers 71 mg of vitamin C—almost the same amount you’d find in a medium-sized naval orange. Comparatively, 1/2 cup of raw cauliflower contains 35 mg of vitamin C while one tomato has about 20 mg. Other vitamin C produce picks: potatoes and apples.
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