My wife and I are fairly good grocery shoppers, or so we assume. There are criteria we obey when shopping, and we are conscious of purchasing foods that are preferably 1)local and/or responsibly grown 2)chemical and hormone free 3)minimally processed. This isn’t too hard, mostly involves just shopping around the periphery of the supermarket, avoiding the center aisles where all the big brand processed food dwells. Aside from those few rules, here’s 5 things that the average person should keep in mind…deceptions that we’ve fallen prey to.
1. Products with olive oil. Whether it’s mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers, or frozen food, generally people will pay more for something with ‘olive oil’ emblazoned across the label. Truth is, most of these things could have 2% of the oil, with the 98% of other oils…canola, corn, cottonseed, hydrogenated oils, etc. Check the label. Even if olive oil is #1 on the ingredient list, there’s all sorts of issues with olive oil out there. Basically, be skeptical when paying more for something with olive oil as a selling point.
2. “Light”. This one has slowly become a no-brainer. For years now, things are branded as ‘light’ or ‘low fat’. In all honesty, how different is a light wheat thin compared to a regular one? You’re still eating a whole box of carbs, who cares if it’s got a bit less grease. For many products, the manufacturer exchanges fat for sugar (usually HFCS). A lowfat ice cream or salad dressing may be less fat, but it’ll be pure sugar. In the whole low calorie battle, it’s more about quality. A potato will always be a healthier purchase than a bag of Ore-Ida fries, a pack of preservative-free bacon is better than a box of low-fat JimmyDean frozen ‘sausages’.
3. Vanilla. This spice is damn-expensive, and nearly any big-brand processed product uses only something called vanillin, a synthetic compound used from everything from food to that car air freshener. This is not vanilla, and the jury is still out as to it’s health effects, as the majority of vanillin is now made synthetically, mostly in China. This fake vanilla can even have ‘all natural’ or ‘naturally flavored’ on its label, as those words are not regulated…which brings us onto the next issue.
4. “Natural”. This doesn’t mean shit. The term “Organic” does have quite a few federal guidelines, but ‘natural’ means nothing, only somewhat regulated in the meat and poultry industry. Even for meat, ‘natural’ just means that it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This has nothing to do with hormones, genetically modification, living conditions, or any other chemicals or ingredients…and has no bearing in the non-meat industry. Long story short, if it’s not meat, and it says ‘natural’, there’s likely no difference between it and any other product on the shelf, don’t waste the extra money.
5. Vitamin C. Here’s the thing…pasteurization destroys vitamin C molecules. To compensate for this, juice companies that advertise ‘vitamin C’ prominently add ascorbic acid or other synthesized chemicals to the drink to bring the C back up to 100%. You might as well just buy vitamins, because that’s all this is. If you like juice or fruit snacks a lot, buy them, but the big flashy “Vitamin C” graphic on the label is crap. Don’t buy OJ or sugar-water just because you think you need vitamin C… If you want to fight scurvy, go grab yourself a grapefruit or something.