Before you go shopping ...
Make a list
A list will make your shopping trip more efficient. It will stop you buying food on impulse. Try to stick to what's on your list, but don't let your list stop you from looking for or trying new healthy foods. When making your shopping list, use your healthy weight plan as your guide. What foods will you need to make healthy lunches and dinners for the week ahead? Do you have enough fruit and other light bites to snack on?
Don't shop on an empty stomach
If you are hungry, you are more likely to rush things and make poor choices. You are also more likely to buy treat foods when you are hungry and feel low in energy. If you do find yourself shopping on an empty stomach, drink some water or buy a piece of fruit to munch on as you go.
When you're shopping...
Give yourself some time to read the labels
Don't spend hours reading the nutrition panels on everything you buy, but try to gradually increase your knowledge. When you're reading food labels, watch out for fat, salt and sugar. Try to choose things that are lower in salt, fat and sugar. Better still, keep away from the packaged foods and try to fill most of your shopping basket with fresh food.
Keep a healthy balance in mind
Try to keep the healthy eating guidelines in mind as you travel through the supermarket. Check your trolley before you finish. Do you have plenty of wholegrains and fruit and vegetables? Have you more lean meats than processed meats? Have you chosen some low-fat dairy foods?
Watch the value packs
It’s great to pick up two bags of apples for the price of one when trying to eat healthily. But it’s not so wise to pick up a 12-pack of crisps. Supermarkets often offer discounts on treat foods if you buy them in bulk. Keep away from these discounts: if you buy more, you will eat more. Buy the fruit and veggies in bulk, but try to keep chocolate, crisps and buns as occasional treats. Buy treats in single portions only.
The information on food labels is there to help you choose between foods. Understanding food labels can be tricky, but it is worth trying to get familiar with the words and phrases used so you can start to make informed choices about what you eat!
A closer look
Food and drink labels normally include things like:
- The name of the food
- The list of ingredients, starting with the ingredient of greatest weight and ending with that of the lowest
- Use by and best before dates
- Country of origin (where the food was produced)
- Storage instructions
- Cooking instructions (if this applies)
- Name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller in EU
- Alcoholic strength of alcoholic drinks
- Allergens that might be present (allergens are ingredients that some people are allergic to. Remember that food allergies should always be diagnosed by a GP or dietitian)
Using food labels every day
You don’t have the time to read every label you pass in the supermarket, but it is worth trying to gradually increase your knowledge. Compare different brands of the same product, and try to choose the options that are lower in fat, salt and/or sugar. Here are some tips to help you make those choices:
Breads, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
- Go for wholegrain pasta, rice, breads and breakfast cereals
- Compare labels and go for breads and cereals with the highest fibre content
Fruit and vegetables
- When you buy tinned fruit, check the label and go for fruit tinned in its own juice rather than syrup. Choose fruit juices with no added sugar – check the ingredients list on the label
- Choose tinned vegetables with the lowest salt content – check the nutrition information on the label
Milk, cheese and yogurt
- Check the label and go for the low-fat/semi-skimmed options
- Remember, semi-skimmed milk is suitable for children over two years of age, provided they are a good eater and are growing well
- Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under five
Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- Go for fresh lean cuts of meat instead of processed meats like sausages and burgers
- When buying pre-packed meat, check the label to see how much fat and salt is in it. Compare brands in case there is a lower-fat, lower-salt option
- Fish is a really nutritious food - go for non-breaded or non-battered types
Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
- Go for low fat spreads and margarines
- Go for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fat, e.g. vegetables oils and spreads instead of butter or lard
- Check food labels to help you pick the foods with ‘no added sugar’ or go for the low-sugar version
- Compare brands of tinned soup or vegetables and go for those with the lowest sodium or salt content
- To calculate the salt equivalent, multiply the sodium figure by 2.5
How much is too much?
This table will give you an idea of whether your food contains ‘a little or a lot’ of fats, salt or sugar per 100g food. Go for brands that are lower in these nutrients.
||This is a lot
||This is a little
||20g or more
||3g or less
||5g or more
||1g or less
||0.5g or more
||0.1g or less
||1.3g or more
||0.3g or less|
||10g or more
||2g or less