Making Informed Food Choices

Making Informed Food Choices

Publish Date February 24, 2023 5 Minute Read

Healthy eating continues to be a hot topic of discussion these days. We all know that making informed food choices can be confusing and overwhelming. Information that’s circulating is often conflicting, which can make it tough to know what and who to trust. Check out these 5 tips we’ve put together to help you make more informed food choices.

1. Stick with Facts, Not Fads

As opportunities for public sharing of health advice continue to grow, it’s now more important than ever to be able to identify what information is fact versus fad. Having this insight can help you choose legitimate nutrition information and avoid potentially harmful advice. Here are some things to look for that can indicate the content you’re looking at may be a fad:

  • Eliminates whole food groups or nutrients (Fear mongering, identifying foods as “bad.”)
  • Words like detox, quick fix, clean eating
  • The person is selling something they make commission from
  • No science-based evidence to support claims
  • No flexibility for individual needs/preferences

Here’s some information to look for that can indicate evidence-based facts:

  • Content that comes from trusted sources and health professionals like registered dietitians (RDs) and physicians. RDs are food and nutrition experts. They’ve completed a bachelor’s and/or advanced degree from an accredited institution, a dietetic internship or another approved program, and have passed a board exam.
  • Peer-reviewed studies that support health claims. Also, check out who funded the study and their relationship to the topic at hand.

2. Know Nutrition Label Language

Knowing how to interpret a nutrition label for your health is powerful. Labels can be confusing. Use these tips to help with pro-level label reading:

  • Serving Size: Everything on the nutrition label is based on the serving size. If you eat twice the serving size, you’re getting twice the amount of all the nutrients on the nutrition label.
  • Daily Value Percentages: Look for 5% or less of the daily value for trans-fat, saturated fat and sodium. And look for 20% or more of the daily value for vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Added Sugar: There are over 60 different names for added sugar on nutrition labels. Look for foods labeled “no added sugar” or choose foods with 0-5g added sugar per serving. Brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, cane crystals and cane sugar are other words for added sugar.
  • The words “healthy and natural” on a food package are often misunderstood. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the current definition of healthy indicates that food “has limits for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and to qualify, foods must also provide at least 10% of the daily value for one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein and fiber.”
  • According to the FDA, a label of “natural” on a package is considered to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in or added to a food. Keep in mind, this doesn’t consider food production or manufacturing methods, or whether the term should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.

3. Improve Your Relationship with Food

Your relationship with food has a huge impact on daily dietary choices. Practicing concepts like mindfulness and intuitive eating (IE) are ways to help improve your relationship with food. While similar, the concepts are different but they do have common benefits. Check out this article by a Kroger Health registered dietitian to learn about the differences. Both mindfulness and IE can help you make more intentional and personalized food choices. Studied benefits of these practices include:

  • Improved relationship with food, your body and others
  • Recovery from eating disorders
  • Increased enjoyment from food
  • Maintaining a weight that’s right for you
  • Reduced food-related stress
  • Improved health outcomes and risk factors (lower triglycerides, blood pressure)
  • Reconnecting with hunger and satiety cues
  • Making more nutritious choices without feeling deprived

4. Optimize Nutrition Based on Your Needs

A diet that’s considered healthy for one individual may not be appropriate for another due to different medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and anxiety. However, Food as Medicine is a concept that encourages using food to prevent, treat and manage illness. For instance, if your family has a history of heart disease, you can practice Food as Medicine by choosing to eat a diet high in produce and low in sodium. Managing diabetes? Choose whole grains, legumes, and plan consistent meals that center around carbohydrates. Experiencing symptoms of anxiety? Reduce high-caffeine foods like chocolate, coffee and tea. Medically tailored meals or advice from your physician can also help to get you on the right track. If you’re unsure of how to put this into practice, Kroger offers online shopping and browsing by diet as well as nutrition services provided by our registered dietitians.

5. Be Budget Friendly with a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does take some effort. Planning meals can be key to reducing your grocery bill and choosing nutritious foods. You can find meal planning inspiration and opt in for personalized weekly meal planning emails. Check out some tips and tricks on saving at the grocery while choosing the right bites:

  • Plan meals around produce, lean proteins and low-fat dairy that’s on sale. Add foods to planned meals that you already have on hand (whole grain rice, pasta, etc.).
  • Pick produce that’s in season. It’ll be less expensive and taste better.
  • Stock up on shelf-stable items when they’re on sale.
  • Choose canned or frozen fruits and vegetables (no added salt, no added sugar).
  • When grocery shopping, take a list and stick with it to reduce impulse buys.
  • Meats are typically the most expensive items. Incorporate plant-based protein (beans, lentils and nuts) into your meal rotation throughout the week.
  • Check weekly sales and digital and/or paper coupons to plan meals around.

Whether it’s unfollowing those promoting diets on social media, reading nutrition labels, improving your relationship with food, choosing more foods based on your health or shopping on a budget, these tips can help make healthy eating easier. For more personalized recommendations, schedule a Telenutrition appointment with one of our registered dietitians.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.