Read It Before You Eat It: 11 Strategies for Healthy Supermarket Shopping

Question: How many food decisions does the average person make in a day: 25, 80, 100, 200? According to Bonnie Taub-Dix RD, weight loss specialist in New York and author of Read it Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time, the answer is 200 food decisions a day. No wonder grocery shopping can be mind-boggling and a source of overwhelming confusion.

Time and again, my clients wistfully comment, "Nancy, I wish I could take you food shopping with me." They are confused about what foods to buy so they can eat healthy. They wonder if they should buy: organic or standard foods? Fresh or frozen vegetables? Low-fat or fat-free milk? Their list of questions seems endless. While I can answer their questions about food shopping, Taub-Dix's newly released book can guide everyone through the grocery store. Read it Before You Eat It is a handy resource for hungry athletes. Here are just a few tidbits that I gleaned from this easy-reader.

? Supermarkets are set up in the way they want you to shop, which means lots of unplanned purchases. That's why loaves of freshly baked bread or pretty flowers greet you as you enter the store. Be sure you have a plan (and your guard up) when you enter! There are 60 to 70 percent of what ends up in a shopping cart tends to be unplanned.

? Beware of descriptive labels such as freshly baked, homemade, natural, and wholesome. These words make products appear more attractive so they jump into your food cart. The same holds true with menus:  Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet sells more than Fish of the Day.

? Don't be tempted by "fat-free." When food manufacturers take out the fat, they generally add extra sugar. You'll end up with a similar amount of calories, and sometimes even more. A smaller portion of the "real food" can create a better taste-memory than a larger portion of a substitute that is low in taste.

? Your goal should not be to eliminate dietary fat; you need some fat to absorb certain vitamins, provide fuel for endurance exercise, and contribute a nice taste and texture to foods. Rather, strive to enjoy more mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, while staying away from trans fats, listed on the label as "partially hydrogenated oils."  Even if the label says "0 grams trans fat", it might contain <0.5 gram, so the better bet is to read the ingredient list on the label and nix foods with "partially hydrogenated oils."

? The "serving size" listed on a food label may not be the appropriate portion for your body. Most athletes need at least two servings of cereal to create the foundation for an adequate breakfast. That is, you are not being piggy if you eat two packets (two servings) of oatmeal. You might even need three?

? The recommended fiber intake is about 25 to 35 grams per day. Most people fail to reach that goal. Yet, some health-conscious athletes consume far more fiber than that— and complain about undesired pit stops during exercise. Moderation tends to be a wise path.

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