In today’s society, everything is so fast-paced, and nobody seems to have time for anything, especially cooking from home. The convenience glorified in fast-paced lifestyles has led to the creation of processed, pre-cooked, pre-packaged ingredients and food items. Some of them are advertised as healthy when, in truth, they’re not exactly the best choice, considering how much sugar and salt are added, as well as other preservatives. An excess of consumption of these two ingredients, in particular, have shown to affect human health negatively.
Here are 5 of the many food items you need to keep an eye out for at the grocery store:
1. Sausages and Deli Meats
Do it for the protein, right? Not quite. Sausages and other deli meats are some of the protein sources that are the highest in animal fat, but also added salt. The additives are mainly to increase shelf life. The added salt-water solution to the pre-packaged/pre-seasoned meat also reduces the percentage of protein, because the water takes up the volume!
Tip: to avoid all added salt and sugar in deli meats, reduce or avoid buying pre-packaged and pre-seasoned meats altogether. These are usually the kind of meats that have all the added stuff. If you’re really in a time crunch, keep an eye out for the % of protein, usually written on the package of these kinds of meat. Anything under 14% protein is by far not a good source of protein.
2. Fruit Juice
I’m not talking about the freshly squeezed stuff, here.
Pre-packaged or pre-bottled fruit juices have plenty of added sugars that don’t belong to the fruit it comes from. Many of these drinks are artificially flavoured and contain little to no fruit!
Tip: make sure to read the labels attentively when buying juice. Watch out for the words natural, artificial, colour and flavour, before making your choice. Make some freshly squeezed juice at home, if possible. Also, be sure to read the ingredient list, and not just the calories. If sugar is one of the first ingredients, it means it’s present in higher quantities. Those products should be avoided if possible.
3. Peanut Butter
Again, commercialized peanut butter has plenty of added sugar and salt (mainly for preservation purposes). Make sure to read the nutrition and ingredient labels on peanut butter jars, especially those from large multinational companies. If sugar appears as one of the first ingredients, it means the peanut butter you’re purchasing in mainly sugar!
You can also try making some at home. A simple google search will lead you to plenty of results.
Tip: compare nutrition labels of various kinds of peanut butter to find which choice is best for you! Try opting for peanut or other nut butters that have no sugar added, and eat it with some natural sugars at home, like fruit or honey. Let’s get back to basics, including the ingredients of the food products we choose to consume.
4. Canned Legumes
Legumes are healthy and are packed with protein, fibre and certain vitamins and minerals. However, salt is added in the conservation water, to increase shelf life.
Tip: Buy the canned legumes with ”no salt added” written on the cans, or be sure to strain and rinse them well with warm water before cooking or eating.
5. Sauce varieties such as tomato sauces, cheese-based dipping sauces, pre-made pasta sauces, etc.
This is where the added sugar and salt are hiding, too. The best solution? Look up recipes and make some at home! You’d be surprised at how easy and very little time some of them take to make. Go for it!
None of this is to say that sugar or salt is bad for you. HOWEVER, studies show it leads to many diseases in the quantities that we’ve been eating as a fast-paced-with-no-time-to-cook-for-ourselves society! We definitely need to pace ourselves when it comes to ultra-transformed and packaged foods and be more aware of how much of what we’re putting in our bodies. Luckily, statistics are showing that millennials are cooking more and more at home, probably due to a raised level of food & health awareness. Let’s keep the ball rolling!