This is a picture of an actual grocery cart seen at a local grocery store. It is piled high with processed foods. Almost everything in the cart is frozen in a box or bag and ready to heat and eat. Americans busy lifestyle lends itself to falling into the trap of purchasing, almost exclusively, foods that are convenient and quick to prepare. The downside to this is that processed foods are high in sodium content, high in fat content (often with unhealthy types of fat), and disguised as good-for-you health foods despite being laden with sugar.
Because of high fat content, convenience foods tend to be very high in calories. Nutrition labels are deceptive by considering a “serving” to be far less than the amount that most people consider a serving. By listing a smaller portion, calories also are less. When eating a “typical” serving, calories can double, triple, or more!
In the picture, bottles of pop are stacked below the cart. Pop is nothing more than sugar water. One can of pop contains about 12 teaspoons of sugar. No nutrition. Empty calories.
Processed foods can be found primarily in the inner aisles of a store. Shopping the perimeter of the store is a smart way to shop because that is where basic, healthy foods tend to be positioned. Fresh produce, fresh meats and seafood, dairy.
When only eating processed food sodium intake can far exceed what is considered healthy. What is very confusing is that a food high in sodium does not necessarily taste salty. That is because many preservatives used in packaged foods tend to be compounds that contain sodium. If sodium is not in the form of sodium chloride (salt), it will not taste salty. It is the sodium component of salt or any other sodium-containing compound that is considered unhealthy in larger amounts. A diet comprised mainly of processed food will provide sodium in quantities far beyond what is considered a healthy.
Does this cart look like yours? Hopefully not. The next time you are at the grocery store, peek into some grocery carts. Based on the content of the cart, one can fairly accurately guess the weight status of the consumer pushing it.
Fran Matteson, MS, RD