The Supermarket Minefield

About Life

Going to the supermarket probably isn’t your favourite thing to do. When did it become so hard to buy a packet of crackers?!

In a modern day society where over 80% of the packaged foods available in the supermarket are ‘food-like items’, it can be very hard to seek out a product that is as close to its original state as possible.

Recently in NZ, a voluntary Health Star Rating system has been introduced for companies to use on the front of their products. Along with the well-known Heart Foundation Tick, this system is designed to compare similar foods at the point of purchase. This just means that a certain brand appears to be less detrimental/ more beneficial to your health compared to another brand as a direct alternative. However, not all healthy products will have a Tick as smaller companies may not be able to afford to pay the Heart Foundation to be part of the programme.

There are currently 91,000 obese children in New Zealand so why is it that for every 3 mouthfuls of Nutri-Grain, 1 is just sugar? The supermarket is full of misleading health claims so I have tried to explain them below:

  • ‘Diet‘ – chemicals anyone? While they tend to be lower in energy (kJ/ calories), these products should be avoided at all costs as they contain nasty additives that can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • ‘Lite/ Light’ – this can be very deceiving as it may mean that compared to the original version, the product has any of the following: a milder taste, a lighter colour (e.g. olive oil), less energy or fat (e.g. potato chips), or even that it is just physically lighter!
  • Low-Fat – although these products are lower in fat than the original variety, they usually become less healthy as the fat is replaced with sugar, salt and chemicals to mask the lack of flavour. Should naturally occurring sources of fat (e.g. dairy foods) really be ‘low fat’?
  • Cholesterol-Free – cholesterol is only found in animal fat sources such as egg yolks so many products wouldn’t even have cholesterol in them to start with! It is now known that eating cholesterol doesn’t actually give you high cholesterol.
  • Gluten-Free – please please please don’t think that it’s ok to buy a gluten-free biscuit because “it’s gluten-free, so it must be healthy” – sugar and harmful trans-fats are also gluten-free! These products are usually even more processed than their ‘normal’ counterparts to try and resemble an edible product!
  • No added sugar – check the ingredients on the back of the packet as the product may still contain ‘natural sugars’ such as fruit concentrate, dried fruit or honey. When looking at the nutrition information panel on the back of packaging it can be helpful to remember that 4 g sugar = 1 teaspoon.
    • Dairy products such as yoghurt contain a naturally occurring sugar called lactose, which contributes to around 4.7 g of sugar/ 100 g. Anything listed as being more than this on a dairy product, is added sugar.

Hope this helps 🙂




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