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Supermarket Tour Wrap-Up. How to make healthier choices for you & your family.

A few weeks ago now I was lucky enough to be able to take a group through a local supermarket and really go through the nitty gritty of what is in our foods.

We looked at a wide range of products, but focussed heavily on perceived ‘health foods’ as well as basic staples that we all use everyday, bread, oils, and meats as well as many others.

And to be honest, even I got a surprise when we looked more deeply into the foods that we picked up.

I’ve had a few requests from people that couldn’t make the tour to put together a post which outlines what we spoke about, so this brings me to days topic. Supermarket shopping and debunking the food we are eating.

And this is a topic that we could easily spend a whole day discussing, because there are so many different things to consider, and everyone has a slightly different take on foods.

We could of gone down the path of ‘only buy organic’ and don’t eat foods that come in packets. But I wanted to keep it real. Everyone is trying to do their best, everyone is time poor, and money is always going to be a factor for many people, especially when there is a family of small hungry mouths to feed. So thats what we did. Real foods, no unrealistic ‘rules’ around food and how to keep things super easy.


Supermarket white vs gluten free vs everything in between

Basic rules: minimal ingredients = best choice for breads.

The question of gluten free bread came up and so we looked at the ingredients of a gluten free loaf of bread in comparison to a standard whole wheat variety of bread. The ingredients list was more than double and with a wide variety of preservatives (Numbers- always be waring of these!) And sugar! They all have added sugar to them, which none (or very few) of the garden variety breads contain.

No if you are gluten intolerant or coeliac, then of course, gluten free bread is the best choice for you to make. But if you have no issues with gluten, then opting for a good quality bread like a 100% rye bread is the best option. Minimal ingredients, low allergen and high fibre.

if you do choose to buy the cheap supermarket white bread, then just be sure to keep it to a minimum. Only a fe times a week if that. The highly processed nature of the white wheat flour in the bread can have a similar action to sugar within your body.

Take away points:

  • fewest ingredients possible

  • sourdough or wheat free variety is best

  • only gluten free if needed.


What to steer completely clear of!

Now this is what shocked me. We picked up a few different types of meat. We picked up some standard rissoles/burgers and some plain grass fed burgers.

With the standard variety of rissoles we flipped over to the back of the packet and had a read of the ingredients.

We found numbers and preservatives galore! And this is the scary part.

Earlier that day I had downloaded an app called ‘E Number’. This is a database of all of the preservative numbers and what they are. You can get similar versions of this type of app but this one was free and seemed easy to use.

We plugged the number into this app and what came up was nothing short of frightening. Below is a screenshot from this particular preservative, what it’s risks are, adverse effects, where its generally found.

The other thing that we looked at was the sodium content. A single serve of the rissoles provided us with approx. 4 times the recommended intake of sodium for a meal.

Now these rissoles will probably be served with a tomato sauce and maybe even in some bread or a roll of some sort, taking the sodium intake up even further. And thats just one meal a day.

Compared with the grass fed variety of burgers, they provided half the amount of sodium (so still high but the better choice none the less) and no nasty preservatives.

Take away points:

  • Avoid processed meats if possible, and if you do have them try and get the best quality versions. Ie the grass fed variety contains less preservatives, less additives so less sodium, and the grass fed nature means that the meat is going to be higher in nutrients such as iron, zinc and B group vitamins.

  • Aim for lean cuts of meat and keep things simple, chicken breast, lamb and beef steaks etc.


What oils should be used for cooking and what oils shouldn’t be!

Hard truths is any sort of ‘vegetable’ oil is probably going to be from a canola source and have a high chance of being genetically modified (GMO).

The best oils to cook with are ones with high burning points. This means that the good properties of the oils (think essential fatty acids) are more likely to be kept at these high temperatures ie. for stir frys or for baking, then an oil at a lower burning point.

Olive oil has a lower burning point, so even though it’s packed with essential fatty acids, when it is heated these benefits are reduced, and you run the risk of exposing yourself to oxidised oils which can contribute to free radical damage within the body.

Oils that have higher burning points: rice bran oil, coconut oil and grape seed oil.

with this being said, olive oil is fantastic for using as salad dressings etc, so if you can avoid heating it, then use away!

When an oil is put in the ‘spray’ variety propellants are added to it. When I say propellants I mean butane and propane. Both of which are found in hair products (hairsprays, mouses) as well as petrols and camping equipment among many other uses!

And you’re probably thinking well how much of those would actually be in the spray. The majority of the oil sprays that we looked at had a average of 65-70% oil, meaning that the remaining 25-30% is butane and propane. No thanks, why not just try put a drizzle of oil into a pan and grab a piece of paper towel and spread it around. It’s better for the environment and your health.

Take away points:

  • Avoid oils with lower burning points when cooking- ie olive oil

  • Opt for oils with higher burning points when cooking- ie coconut oil

  • Avoid the use of spray oils all together


How to make the healthy choice for your family

Sauces was an interesting one, and unless you and your family consume a lot of sauce then this may or may not interest you. We looked at the basic tomato sauce and BBQ sauces. Again the sugar and sodium really proved an interesting topic when it came to sauces, because they are packed full!

my general rule for looking at sugar are as follows:

-Always compare amount per 100g/ml. This allows you to compare against a common denominator

  • 3g of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar

  • Try and only use products with less than (or as close to) 10g of sugar per 100g. All of this info will be found on the nutrition panel.

The average tomato sauce showed that per 100g there was 29g of sugar (approx 10 teaspoons!), and 876g of sodium (I generally will try and aim for as close to 150g as possible).

The average BBQ sauce showed that per 100g there was 45g of sugar (approx 10 teaspoons!), and 1137 of sodium (I generally will try and aim for as close to 150g as possible).

So, with that being said, if you and the family have a lot of sauce then swapping for a salt reduced variety will provide you with less sodium and sugar, so if you can opt for that variety.

Take away points:

-Both standard tomato and bbq sauces contain bucketloads of sugar and salt

  • Swap for salt reduced variety

  • Only enjoy in moderation.

So. Have I scared you? I hope not, because the more you know, then easier it is to navigate the supermarket. But if you try and keep it simple, avoid to many processed foods and just keep it real in terms of food, you can’t go to wrong.

This is just a quick snapshot of what we discussed, and everyone has their own go-to’s when it comes to supermarket shopping so each time we do a supermarket tour something new will come up. If you are interested in attending a supermarket tour feel free to send us an email at to register your interest. If we have enough interested parties we will look at putting them on more regularly.

Karah is the Founder of The Sana Co and is a Bachelor degree qualified Naturopath. She has a special interest in treating digestive conditions such as IBS, GORD, and bloating. She believes strongly in the concept of Food as Medicine. Karah is available for consultations in Geelong, Ocean Grove and Bannockburn.

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