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checking food labels

Great Supermarket Foods

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Reading through ingredients of supermarket foods can be daunting.
The easiest way to avoid this daunting task is to stick to the perimeter of the store, where you can gather your fresh produce, dairy products, and meat (or better yet, shop at a farmers’ market). But let’s be practical, sometimes this is task is impossible for most individuals who are busy parents and like most, even me, time management skills are lacking and you’re on a strict budget. So we need to venture into the center aisles, where you’ll find packaged and processed goods for, say, condiments or chicken broth? Saving time and money, especially with all the coupons available these days.

Some of the food products out there are downright scary, so to help you navigate the grocery store minefield and live a healthier life here is a list of common foods and healthier suggestions that will ensure help you live healthier, lower healthcare cost and help you lose weight. More are at the bottom with more suggestions.

Common Food and Substitute

  • Ketchup, while delicious, is not the best condiment for you. By nature, it contains a sweetener—whether that’s sugar, cane syrup, or (gasp) high fructose corn syrup.
    Substitutes: Whole Foods’ 365 Organic Tomato Ketchup ($1.99/24 oz.)
    The Whole Foods brand of ketchup contains only the ingredients ketchup needs to be “ketchup”—tomato puree, evaporated cane juice, white vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, Heinz’s Simply Heinz® is the next best option, as it contains sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
  • Mustard
    Mustard is an almost calorie-free way to give a flavor boost to sauces and proteins. But some mustards also include “natural flavors.” And because natural flavors are not always “natural,I’m going with the one that doesn’t have them.
    Substitues: Morehouse® Yellow Mustard ($2.49/20 oz.)
    Morehouse’s Yellow Mustard contains only distilled vinegar, mustard seed, sea salt, turmeric, paprika, and spices. We’re okay with “spices” being left a mystery because food labeling laws require these ingredients to be from this list of seasonings.
  • Mayonnaise
    Real mayonnaise is made from eggs, oil, and sometimes lemon juice or vinegar. Most store brands stray pretty far from this recipe. Miracle Whip® adds high fructose corn syrup, natural flavor, and potassium sorbate (a synthetic preservative that is also used in industrial coatings4). Best Foods/Hellmann’s® adds calcium sodium EDTA.
    Substitutes: Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise ($3.99/11.25 oz.)
    Spectrum makes several mayonnaises that meet our high standard. All of the ingredients are organic and are actually food.
  • Hot Sauce
    Hot sauce adds flavor, but can also add unnecessary sugar or sodium.
    Substitutes: Tabasco® Pepper Sauce ($2.49/2 oz.)
    It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to turn up the heat. Classic Tabasco only has three ingredients: red peppers, salt, and distilled vinegar. Many Mexican hot sauces come in a healthy(ish) second. All you need to do is read the ingredients list.
  • Soy Sauce
    There’s no getting around the fact that soy sauce is loaded with sodium. But, grab a random bottle from the shelf and it might also include modified food starch or sugar.
    Substitutes: Kikkoman® Low-Sodium Soy Sauce ($3.49/10 oz.)
    This soy sauce is tasty, though don’t mistake it for a low-sodium food! We don’t love that it includes sodium benzoate and lactic acid, but we’ve seen worse. If you have a Trader Joe’s® nearby, theirs is best as it contains only water, soybeans, wheat, and salt. Plus, it has 460mg of sodium (vs. Kikkoman’s 575 mg).
  • Peanut Butter
    Peanut butter that’s perfectly smooth and spreadable (even the crunchy kind) is made with added hydrogenated vegetable oil or palm oil (and usually a ton of sugar). Don’t want to stir your all-natural peanut butter every time you eat it? We don’t either. Stir it once, and then store it in your fridge.
    Substitutes: Laura Scudder’s® All-Natural Peanut Butter ($3.29/16 oz.)
    Laura Scudder’s All-Natural Peanut Butter contains only peanuts and touch of salt. It is also available in organic and unsalted varieties.
  • Jam
    The jam, jelly, and fruit preserves aisle is full of trouble. Reach willy-nilly for any jam jar on the shelf and you might be picking up a jar of fruit laced with high fructose corn syrup, tons of added sugar, aspartame, and Red 40.
    Substitutes: St. Dalfour® ($3.99/10 oz.)
    St. Dalfour is pure, old-fashioned fruit spread: fruit, fruit juice, and pectin (a natural thickener). A widely available alternative, Bonne Maman® Fruit Preserves ($4.99/13 oz.), gets high marks from us for its real fruit flavor and similarly simple recipe (they sweeten with sugar instead of juice).
  • Salad Dressing
    The best way to have healthy salad dressing is to make it from scratch. Otherwise you risk ingesting a wide range of nasty stuff like corn syrup, artificial colors, and phosphoric acid—a tangy-tasting corrosive chemical.5 We found all of these ingredients in Kraft Free Caesar Italian).
    Substitutes: Annie’s Naturals® Balsamic Vinaigrette ($3.99/8 oz.)
    Annie’s Naturals uses common, known ingredients: water, oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, and salt.
  • Greek Yogurt
    Greek yogurts are made from the same stuff as regular yogurt, are strained to achieve a thicker consistency, and contain more protein. For the most part, they all get our stamp of approval.
    Substitutes: Fage® Total 0% Plain ($6.99/32 oz.) or Chobani® Nonfat Plain ($6.49/32 oz.)
    The key is to buy plain Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit or honey. Here’s why. In those little pre-flavored cups, there’s a lot of added sugar. 8 ounces of plain nonfat Fage has 100 calories, 23 g of protein, and 6 g of sugar (from the milk). One 5.3-oz. container of Blueberry Fage has 120 calories, 13 g of protein, and 16 g of sugar (from the milk, blueberries, and added sugar). Eating more yogurt and consuming more protein, fewer calories, and less sugar sounds good to us.
  • Half and Half
    Technically, half and half is a blend of cream and milk, but many brands add color, preservatives, corn syrup, and mono- and diglycerides. Fat-free versions replace cream with fillers, emulsifiers, and chemicals.
    Substitutes: Horizon Organic® Half & Half ($2.99/pint)
    Horizon Organic Half & Half contains only organic Grade A whole milk and organic cream. If you have a hankering for flavors, try adding a few drops of all-natural vanilla, rum, or hazelnut extract instead of flavored “creamers.”
  • Almond Milk
    With just 30 calories per serving, almond milk has one-third the calories of nonfat milk. Made from scratch, it contains only almonds and water, but some brands’ recipes include a long list of other ingredients, including sugars.
    Substitute: Pacific Almond Milk ($2.99/32 oz.)
    This almond milk contains almonds, sea salt, vanilla, rice starch, carrageenan (from seaweed), and natural flavors. Plus, it’s fortified with the same nutrients as milk. We’ll take it.
  • English Muffins
    Thomas’ whole wheat English muffins contain preservatives, artificial color, and a host of chemicals including azodicarbonamide, a bleaching agent that is used in plastics and which is banned for food use in—of all places—England!7
    Substitute: Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains English Muffins ($4.59/6 muffins)
    Like their bread, Food for Life’s English muffins contain only organic sprouted grains, yeast, gluten, and salt. Half of one muffin has 80 calories, 4 g of protein, and 3 g of fiber.
  • Prepackaged Deli Turkey or Ham
    Luncheon meats can be scary territory in the grocery store. What looks like sliced turkey breast is often poultry pieces that have been ground into a paste, processed with chemical binders and nitrites, flavored with corn syrup and artificial flavors, and molded into a cylinder, then sliced. Ew. What’s the big deal about nitrites and why do we suggest all your meats be nitrite-free? Because nitrates and nitrites have been linked to increased risk of cancer,8 heart disease, and diabetes.9
    Substitute: Applegate Farms®
    Applegate’s packaged deli products are made from cage-free animals that were never treated with hormones or antibiotics. Their meats have no nitrites or fillers and stick to the basics—sliced protein, water, salt, and carrageenan obtained from seaweed.
  • Hot Dogs
    Hot dogs are famously made from mystery meat. This takes on new meaning now that the world has been introduced to the horrors of pink slime and horsemeat. Then there are all the artificial flavors, preservatives, sodium, chemical fillers, and corn syrup.
    Substitutes: Applegate Great Organic Beef Hot Dogs ($4.99/8 franks)
    Applegate Farms links contain only organic grass-fed beef and organic spices. At 110 calories per link, 8 g of fat, and 330 mg of sodium—and the knowledge that their animals are cage- and crate-free—when it comes to hot dogs, these are a good choice.
  • Jarred Salsa
    Salsa is the healthy man’s condiment of choice. But some are healthier than others. We passed on Pace® Picante Sauce because it has 250 mg of sodium per serving.
    Substitutes: Newman’s Own® Medium Salsa ($3.49/16 oz.)
    Look for jarred salsa without any added sugar, excessive salt, or preservatives. We chose Newman’s Own for its all-natural ingredients and lower sodium content (105 mg/2 Tbsp.). It does have added sugar, but only 1 g per serving.
  • Chicken Stock
    Prepared chicken stock can be aggressively high in sodium and may even contain MSG! Not to mention corn syrup and artificial flavorings.
    Substitutes: Pacific Organic Free Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth ($3.99/32 oz.)
    Making chicken stock at home is best. And it’s not hard. But, if you have to buy one, Pacific Organic makes the best we found, even though it does contain “chicken flavor.” Whatever that is.
  • Marinara Sauce
    If you can’t find the time to make simple marinara sauce from canned tomatoes, make sure your jarred sauce is made from natural ingredients and is low in sodium and added sugars. Hunt’s® Traditional Marinara Sauce sneaks in high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar. Many jarred sauces cut corners by using soybean oil instead of olive oil.
    Substitutes: Silver Palate® Low-Sodium Marinara Pasta Sauce ($5.29/25 oz.)
    This award-winning marinara sauce has no added sugar or soybean oil. It has ingredients that should be in marinara sauce—tomatoes, olive oil, onions, carrots, and garlic—and is sweetened with pear concentrate instead of sugar.

  • Tortilla Chips
    If you want salsa and chips, try baked chips. They’re lower in fat than their fried cousins and still have that satisfying crunch.
    Substitutes: Guiltless Gourmet® Unsalted ($2.99/7 oz.)
    These contain just organic yellow corn, oil (canola, safflower, or sunflower), and lime. With just 26 mg of sodium per serving and 120 calories for 18 chips, you can snack without feeling guilty. We recommend serving the correct portion of chips in a bowl rather than digging into the whole bag.
  • Beef Jerky
    Jerky is made with salt and sugar—there’s no getting around that. Avoid brands that use additives like MSG, oleoresin, hydrolyzed soy protein, and sodium erythorbate, and whatever you do, do not snap into a Slim Jim®.
    Substitutes: Oberto® All Natural Beef Jerky (6.99/3.25 oz.)
    Oberto All Natural Jerkies are seasoned and preserved with ingredients you would have in your own home, like salt, sugar, vinegar, and beef stock. This brand’s worst offense is natural smoke flavor. Their turkey jerky is up to snuff as well. Just remember, those small bags are not single servings!>/li>
Condiments and Spreads:
Ketchup: Whole Foods 365 Organic Tomato Ketchup or Heinz’s Simply Heinz Ketchup
Mustard: Morehouse Yellow Mustard
Mayonnaise: Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise
Hot Sauce: Tabasco Pepper Sauce
Soy Sauce: Kikkoman Low-Sodium Soy Sauce or Trader Joe’s Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
Peanut Butter: Laura Scudder’s All-Natural Peanut Butter
Jam: St. Dalfour or Bonne Maman
Salad Dressing: Annie’s Naturals Balsamic Vinaigrette

Dairy and Nondairy:
Greek Yogurt: Fage Total 0% Plain or Chobani Nonfat Plain
Regular Yogurt: DANNON All-Natural Plain Nonfat Yogurt
Cottage Cheese: Daisy Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
Cream Cheese: Organic Valley Cream Cheese or Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese
Half and Half: Horizon Organic Half & Half
Soy Milk: Organic Edensoy
Almond Milk: Pacific Almond Milk
Rice Milk: Rice Dream

Bread Products:
Bread: Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains Bread
English Muffins: Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains English Muffins
Whole Grain Tortillas: Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Taco Size Whole-Grain Tortillas
Hamburger Buns: Food for Life Sprouted Whole-Grain Burger Buns
Cereal: Engine 2 Rip’s Big Bowl (any variety)
Frozen Waffles: Kashi 7-Grain Waffles
Pancake Mix: Baker Mills Kodiak Cakes

Prepackaged Deli Turkey or Ham: Applegate Farms
Vegetarian Burgers: Asherah’s Gourmet Vegan Burgers or Original Sunshine Burgers
Hot Dogs: Applegate Great Organic Beef Hot Dogs

Dips, Sauces, and Soup:
Hummus: Haig’s Hummus
Applesauce: Santa Cruz Organic Applesauce
Jarred Salsa: Newman’s Own Medium Salsa
Soup: Amy’s Light in Sodium Soups

Chicken Stock: Pacific Organic Free Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
Vegetable Stock: Kitchen Basics Vegetable Cooking Stock, Unsalted
Breadcrumbs: Ian’s Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs
Marinara Sauce: Silver Palate Low-Sodium Marinara Pasta Sauce
Olives: Early California Pitted Kalamata Greek Olives

Crackers: Wasa Hearty Grain or Whole-Grain
Tortilla Chips: Guiltless Gourmet Unsalted
Beef Jerky: Oberto All-Natural Beef Jerky
Iced Tea: Tejava Iced Tea

Did you like this tip?
If so please comment below and I will add more like it. Thank you for stopping by Duffitness, your Beachbody Coach. Not only did Beachbody help me lose weight and live healthier but it’s helped me in all aspects of my life. Thank you for reading, Chris Duffield.
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