Having the right foods on hand when it’s time to prepare meals at home is an important first-step in sticking to a heart-healthy diet. To do this, read and understand the nutrition facts label when shopping for foods. To avoid succumbing to temptations from all that’s available while you browse the aisles and read labels, it might be easier to create a grocery shopping list in advance. Unless you’re purchasing foods you’ve previously researched, how will you know a product’s nutrition data while preparing your list?
Online tools make it easier
If browsing multiple websites for every product you intend to purchase sounds too time-consuming, the American Heart Association’s one-stop online location is a handy tool for creating a grocery shopping list of heart-healthy certified foods. Products are broken into categories similar to the aisles where they are stocked at the grocery store — milk is in the “Dairy” category, fresh fruits and vegetables are in “Fresh,” and so on.
When a product’s information is accessed, the packaging logo is displayed so you can be sure you’ve selected the right item along with the product’s ingredient list and nutrition facts panel. Selected items are added to a list, which can be saved and modified, printed, e-mailed or downloaded to a web-enabled mobile phone or PDA.
Several years ago, I gave myself a pat on the back after giving up sugary carbonated beverages. I’d consumed one to two carbonated drinks a day for most of my life. That’s over twice the American Heart Associations (AHA) daily recommended limit of 100 calories.
Following that success, I believed anything was possible, so I began to gradually eliminate processed foods from my diet. All the while, I continued to eat deserts regularly, add sugar to my tea , coffee and cereal — and even increased the “dosage” a little. I was convinced that this small amount of sugar was negligible compared to the sugar I once consumed by drinking sugary carbonated beverages and eating processed foods. One day, while placing a new 5-pound bag of sugar into my grocery cart, I realized that I had begun purchasing that much every two to three weeks. I didn’t know that the AHA’s recommended daily limit for added sugar for women was 25 grams or less, and that I was consuming up to 57 grams daily. When sugar was concealed within the processed foods I ate, it had been easy to ignore. But staring down into my grocery cart, I knew that a 5-pound bag of sugar every two weeks was too much for one person.
Several months ago, in a last-ditch effort to reduce my risk for heart-disease, I stopped adding sugar to my food, I’ve avoided eating processed foods, and I have deserts only on occasion. I finally understand that my craving was never for carbonated beverages, a particular processed food, or even deserts, but rather for the regular sugar fixes those foods had been providing me all day, every day for many years.