Getting the Most Nutrition Out Of Your Trip to the Supermarket


Your food choices may be actively causing your demise. That is a bold assertion, I agree. Read on for advice on how to make the healthiest possible food selections at the grocery store or supermarket and to learn the truth about what’s really in some of the foods you buy.

It’s simple to grab a bunch of random groceries from the grocery without ever really knowing what’s “within” them.

Working in the food industry for over 25 years and representing manufacturers for a large portion of that time, I learned the hard way that many common foods (especially bread goods) have hidden chemicals that most people aren’t aware of.

Many people have become more enlightened in the last 15 years. When discussing this topic with people who have never worked in the food sector, I am often surprised by how many people still have stereotypes about the food they buy. Most bakeries at grocery stores are like this.

For instance, if you go to the bakery area of your neighborhood Indian grocery store and buy something there that you think is “homemade,” chances are it was actually created in a factory, shipped frozen, and then baked at the supermarket. Even worse, many products sold in what the trade calls “in-store bakeries” today are delivered already baked and priced and sold!

There may be no more than a handful of retail bakeries in the United States that still use the time-honored method of “scratch baking.” The term “scratch baking” implies that the bakery uses real ingredients, such as flour, sugar, shortening, and fresh fruit, as opposed to processed components like shortening and even those labelled “homemade” or “baked on the premises,” which are not genuinely “from scratch.” The claim “baked on the premises” turns out to be true, but the product was shipped to you frozen. If it’s a yeast product that was frozen before rising and then delivered frozen, it’s called “proof ‘n bake,” if it’s done but needs to be browned, it’s called “frozen bake-off,” and if it’s partially baked, it’s called “par-baked” and needs a few minutes in the oven to finish. It’s not hard to guess how many chemicals and additions have to go into a mass-produced product before it can withstand this kind of treatment and still function as intended.

Many restaurants will provide pre-baked rolls from the “Foodservice” food channel as an appetiser before serving the main entrée. I really dislike how many eateries speed their baking processes to the point that the food isn’t properly browned and has a crisp top. You’ll know they’re not quite ready since they still have a white appearance rather than the expected golden brown, crusty exterior and tender within.

You should always check the labels to see what’s in the baked goods you buy. You can ask to see the ingredient lists if the food you want to buy is something they bake but doesn’t label. They must provide them to you in accordance with the law. It’s a red flag that the product has additives and preservatives if there are a lot of strange names on the list that no one can pronounce. Even more so if there are a lot of submissions. Additives (chemicals) are used to help the food stay longer, brown more consistently, have a uniform crumb size, taste a certain way (often by adding artificial flavours), be the right colour, and be safe for consumption in bakeries. They can chemically modify almost any idea so that it can be consistently produced in large quantities.

The question you’re undoubtedly asking yourself now is, “What should I buy from the bakery?” Well, the in-store bakeries at grocery shops typically stock a number of excellent “Artisan Breads” made with few ingredients and a focus on simplicity of preparation. Flour, water, yeast, salt, and occasionally seeds are all that go into them. These goods have a “one-day shelf life,” meaning they will spoil after a day. There’s a good reason why it just lasts a day. It does not contain any unnecessary additives or chemicals. Look at the ingredient lists carefully to know what you’re getting, as some “Artisan” loaves may have a lot of added chemicals like “dough conditioners” and other things you don’t want to eat.

When celebrating a special occasion, how often have you bought a cake from the grocery store bakery? They’re cheaper, and in these tough economic times, every dollar counts. Sorry to break it to you, but maybe not all of the cakes in the store came from the bakery. To begin, almost NO supermarket chain bakeries produce their own cakes in-house. These days, almost everything is shipped frozen. To be honest, I doubt you could find a supermarket that doesn’t start with a bagged mix for their baked products, even if they are made in-house. If you want to know what’s in it, just ask for the ingredients list. You might be surprised at how many of them you can’t even pronounce! In fact, a few of the chocolate treats don’t even have chocolate in them. Chocolate is NOT one of the ingredients. When I found out that, I was even more astounded.

High ratio cakes are so called because all ingredients are measured in relation to the flour. One definition of “high ratio cake” is a cake in which the amount of sugar relative to the amount of flour is astronomical. To put it another way, it has an excessive amount of sugar. This is not strictly a drawback, but it is something to keep in mind.

To be fair, several luxury supermarkets have their own commissary bakeries and bring freshly baked goodies directly inside their stores. You should still check the labels to make sure you understand what’s in the food you’re buying.

Don’t be fooled into believing you can avoid additives in cake by just purchasing from “Mom-and-pop” bakeries; even many of them use cake mixes. Once more, you’ll need to verify the contents by obtaining ingredient lists.

Most of the fillings, fruits, and other ingredients that go into these cakes also come in large containers. While it’s true that some use fresh ingredients in their products, most use ready-made materials that have already been preserved.

In that case, what can “smart” shoppers do to reduce their contact with potentially harmful substances? Avoid going in the store until you absolutely have to. The old adage, “Fresh is Best!” still holds true.

Keeping a close eye on the ingredients of the food you buy and feed your family can help reduce your exposure to chemicals and additives, while it may be impossible to completely avoid them.

These days, even fresh produce has been chemically treated and sprayed. You certainly have the option to purchase organic, and you really should do so if at all possible. It’s common knowledge that organic produce is more costly. Do the best you can with the resources you have available if you are unable to buy everything organic. Having some is better than none.

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