Come do a grocery shop with me (and my 2 sometimes 3 children) and you may find yourself running to keep up or reacting to one of the many instructions and orders I issue to the kids.
Quick, we’ve got 25 minutes to get dinner, school lunches and sport snacks organised for the next 3 days … Let’s all grab 3 things each and meet back at the register!
You see with 3 children who between them have 11 different sport and extra-curricular activities, life gets super busy and I’m forever wedging the grocery shopping in around everything else.
I often look fondly at mums who take their time, sipping a coffee and strolling the aisles (yes I have actually seen them every now and then). I think that if that was me, I would read every label, I’d know exactly what was on special and I’d certainly be the source of all knowledge when it comes to what’s good for you and what’s not.
I’d probably even make all our breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners from scratch!
Given this will probably never happen, I’ve decided the best thing I can do is create a ‘cheat sheet’ of what to focus on when I’m shopping for food for my family. But rather than leave it to Google, I asked the team at Uncle Tobys.
The thing I love about this list is that it applies to all brands and manufacturers and cuts through the marketing noise allowing me to figure out whether a product is as good for us as I’d like it to be.
Do these 4 things and you’ll feel in control and more educated about what you’re feeding your family:
1. Make the NUTRITION PANEL your friend.
Yes I know there’s lots of stuff on there and you might need to pop on your glasses to read it but this panel is your friend. It tells you how much of a nutrient is in the product per serve and per 100g.
There are rules around nutrition panels and all the manufacturers have to follow them – which means you can make direct comparisons between similar products.
Pay particular attention to SATURATED FAT, SALT (sodium), SUGARS and KILOJOULES and FIBRE. Aim for the lowest possible numbers of fat, salt, sugar and kilojoules and the highest number when it comes to fibre.
Most importantly check the numbers you’re reading – is it a single serve or per 100ml or 100g? I often think a little pack is a single serve when it’s actually 2 or 3 so what I thought was good, it often a little scary.
2. Use the INGREDIENTS LIST as a quick guide.
All the ingredients in any food product must be listed on the label in order – from the largest ingredient to the smallest by weight. So if SATURATED FAT and SUGAR are up the top, put it down and look for another option!
3. Look for the Health Star Rating (HSR)
If the fine print is all too much look for the Health Star Rating printed on the front of the product packaging. This is an overall assessment of the food based on its nutrient content presented as a star and a number. The MORE STARS, the HEALTHIER the choice. Not all manufacturers are on board with this yet (we have to wonder why) but I think this one is gold.
The Health Star Rating is a government initiative so it’s fair, it’s honest and it’s not driven by any agendas. There has been a lot of skepticism about the Heart Foundation Tick of Approval but let’s remember they charge brands for this whereas brands do not pay for the HSR.
4. Watch the marketing claims!
When you’re in a rush and you’ve got children with you who’ve been watching all those fabulous iron-man type TV commercials, it’s easy to rush in … ending up with a high sugar, low fibre product in your trolley!
Sometimes labels will include nutritional claims such as ‘high fibre’, ‘wholegrain’ or ‘low GI’. Yes all important for us as mums feeding growing children. But these claims can only be used if the food meets certain criteria set out to FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand). As an example, for a company to say they have a ‘high fibre’ content in their product, they must have at least 4g of fibre per serve.
So from now on, armed with my new checklist, I’m going to be the mum who’s reading the box, checking the labels and double checking the facts. I’m going to ignore those enticing yellow tickets that convince me that 2 for the price of 1 is a good buy and go back to seeking out the healthy choices.
After all, when I think of how much of the food I buy my hungry children gobble up each week, I really do need to be mindful of what I’m throwing into my trolley.
What are your TOP TIPS for making your grocery shop as healthy as possible?
Nikki from the MoM team x