If you’re like me, grocery shopping is not at the top of my “favorite things to do” list.  I want to get in and out of a grocery store as fast as I can.  Planning, shopping, and cooking can become a real chore!  So, who has time to read labels and why is it so important?

What could be more important than knowing what we are putting into our bodies?  When we eat, we are feeding our cells, not just filling our bellies.  Our bodies have to recognize and process what we put into them.  Food additives and preservatives can be harmful over long periods of time, so it is important to take the time to read labels and make the best food choices.

According to the Time Use Institute, the average time spent in the grocery store is 41 minutes.  That tells me that people are not taking the time to look at what is in their food.  Just think if you spent just an extra 10 minutes to look at a label how much healthier your food cart would be!

Food manufacturers are the best marketers on the planet.  They use catch phrases like “natural” or “low fat” to make the item seem healthy.  Do not be tricked by the front of the packaging.  Always look at what the product has in it, not what the marketing tells you.

Here are a few simple tips to help you scan labels to make the process much easier.  Look at the ingredients section, not just the facts table on the side or back of the box.  If it has high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, bleached flour, aspartame, MSG (mono sodium glutamate), dyes or chemicals (things you can’t pronounce or anything with a number), put it back on the shelf.  The list of ingredients should be relatively short.  If it is lengthy, then it probably has too many fillers and is not good for you.

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  There, you’ll find less processed foods.  Familiarize yourself with the healthy food section and try a new item each week.  Remember, just because something is “gluten free” does not mean it is healthy.  It may very well have dyes and additives that give it texture and flavor.  Sugar is in everything.  Four grams equals one teaspoon of sugar.  Instead of counting calories, count the nutrients in the product.

If you begin reading labels and build a diet of whole foods for meals and snacks, you will reap the rewards in short order!