Shopping For Groceries Online a Healthy Choice

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In the last three years, the percentage of Americans who purchase at least some groceries online is estimated to have jumped from 19 percent to 79 percent, according to the supermarket industry. There are plenty of reasons for the spike in popularity, including the:

  • Desire for social distancing
  • Convenience
  • Time-saving factor
  • Desire to avoid shopping carts with wonky wheels that pull to one side

Dietitian and nutritionist Susan Knapke, RDN, LD, told Premier Health Now that grocery shopping online can be ideal if you’re searching for the healthiest food options. “In our area, we’re fortunate the major grocery stores — Kroger, Aldi, Meijer, and Walmart — include nutrition information on their websites for packaged foods,” she says. “That means you can take your time examining food labels as you compile your order at home, instead of checking labels while standing in the store aisles.”

“Nutrition labels help guide our food choices,” says Knapke. “I consider them another tool that is available to us in our quest to eat healthy. Studying them is one more thing we can do to learn what’s healthy and what’s not.”

Knapke regularly discusses nutrition labels with her clients who want to prevent disease or get a health condition under control. “For example, we know that saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And that people with diabetes or a family history should pay attention to the amount of added sugar in their food. The label provides that information. It will help you determine if a particular food is best for you,” she says. 

Doritos Don’t Grow On Trees!

As you examine food labels, Knapke suggests:

  • Choose foods that are closest to their original form. These are foods with the least amount of processing and alteration. They’ll have less fat, sugar, and sodium. And they’ll have ingredients you recognize. “For example, a baked potato is a better choice than potato chips. Some of what we consider food isn’t really food at all. Doritos don’t grow on trees!” she says.
  • Choose foods with the fewest ingredients to retain more of the original nutritional value. If you don’t recognize a word on the list of ingredients, the food is getting away from its original form and likely is not as nutritious.
  • For a visual of how much sugar is in a serving size, look at the number of added grams of sugar on a food label and divide it by four. That’s how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving.
  • When choosing proteins (meats and seafood), compare the number of grams of protein listed on the label to the number of grams of total fat. You want the protein number to be higher, which indicates it’s leaner and healthier. The wider the spread between the two numbers, the better.

How Dietitians And Nutritionists Can Help

Dietitians and nutritionists counsel their clients about healthy eating habits, and how food can help to prevent and manage disease. Knapke regularly counsels clients, both in-person and via telehealth, with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, food allergies, celiac disease and other medical conditions. If you would like to talk to a dietitian and/or nutritionist about your eating habits, ask your doctor for a referral. Some, but not all, insurance companies help to cover the cost.

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Susan Knapke, RDN, LD