Grocery Smarts: Right vs. Wrong Food Choices at the Supermarket

Photo of potato chips and popcorn.

Popcorn or Potato Chips?

If you're looking for low-fat snack ideas, should you choose popcorn or potato chips for movie night? Reach for the popcorn, as long as it's the right kind. Popcorn is loaded with whole-grain fiber and it is naturally low in fat. Just keep it that way by munching on the air-popped variety. Slathering popcorn in butter will up the fat and calorie intake.

Compared to plain popcorn, potato chips cooked in oil are high in fat and calories. Add garlic salt or herbs to your popcorn to punch up the flavor quotient. Most people in the US do not get enough fiber every day. Add air-popped popcorn as a high-fiber low-fat snack.

Bran cereal is a low-fat healthy snack.

Granola or Bran Cereal?

Looking for something low in fat to eat for breakfast? It's bran cereal for the win. While granola provides whole grains and fiber, it's often high in fat and calories and it may contain added sugar. It's best to reserve granola as a topper for yogurt or a bowl of fruit.

Choose whole-grain bran cereal instead, which supplies a good amount of fiber and some protein, too. Pick a sugar-free variety to keep carb intake down. Adding skim milk will make bran cereal a high protein snack that's low in fat.

Sherbet, sorbet, and light ice cream make the best low-fat snacks to cool off in the summer.

Ice Cream or Sherbet?

Should you choose ice cream or sherbet to cool off on a hot summer day? Make it a sherbet. Traditional ice cream is high in saturated fat and calories. You can enjoy the same amount of sherbet for less than 50 percent of the calories found in the same serving size of ice cream. Sherbet also contains approximately 80 percent less fat and 40 percent less sugar compared to the same serving size of ice cream. Sorbet, frozen yogurt, and light ice cream are other low fat snack ideas that are better for you fat and calorie wise compared to traditional ice cream.

Pizza can be a healthy food option as long as you prepare it the right way.

Topping Your Pizza

Traditional pizza piled high with cheese, sausage, and pepperoni is high in fat, calories, and salt. But you can prepare it in a healthier way to make it a low-fat snack. Top your pizza with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese or use a soy-based cheese substitute. Use veggies as toppings instead of sausage and pepperoni to up the flavor and decrease the fat. Garlic, bell peppers, olives, spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, zucchini, red onion, tomatoes, eggplant, and basil are a few options. Limit your potion to one or two slices to avoid going overboard on the carbs from the pizza crust.

Always choose 100% whole fruit juice over sugar-sweetened artificial fruit drinks.

Fruit Juice or Fruit Punch?

When you're thirsty, should you reach for fruit punch or good ol' OJ? Pick the 100% natural orange juice, please. Fruit drinks are often laden with sugar and may have little to no fruit in them. This makes them high in carbs and devoid of any nutritional value. Pour yourself a serving of 100% fruit juice instead. Whole fruits provide you with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that fight inflammation. You can even make smoothies with fruit and veggies at home using a good blender. It's an easy way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake without a lot of effort.

A few tablespoons of hummus is a better low-fat snack choice than nacho cheese sauce.

Cheese Dip or Hummus?

Hummus is the selection of choice! Cheese sauce is notoriously high in saturated fat and calories that will show up on your waistline. Dip chips into hummus instead, which is made from high-fiber chickpeas. The legumes are also high in protein making hummus a high protein low-fat snack.

Instead of chips, you can dip cucumber slices, carrot sticks, or celery into hummus for a low-carb, low-fat snack. If you want something more like a chip, reach for baked pita chips, which are lower in fat compared to traditional chips cooked in oil.

Frozen meals are fine if you choose varieties that have ample lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables.

What About Frozen TV Dinners and Meals?

If you're like many people, you may be too tired to cook after a long day of work. Maybe you rely on frozen meals from time to time. That's okay as long as you pick the right kind. Frozen dinners full of fried foods that have cream or cheese sauces are not a good idea. They exceed your fat, calorie, and sodium allowance. Instead look for healthier frozen meals consisting of baked or boiled lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables. Many times these frozen meals are labeled "lean" or "low-fat" so you can spot them easily in the freezer aisle.

Tomato sauce makes a healthier addition to pasta than cheese sauce.

Healthier Pasta Dishes

Mac and cheese is a perennial favorite, but it will set you back in fat and calories. You can have your noodles and eat them, too, just choose wisely. Whole-grain and gluten-free pastas are better options than traditional white pasta. Tomato sauce is a better option than cheese sauce to add to pasta. While you're at it, throw some chopped veggies into your tomato sauce to add extra fiber and nutrition to your dish. Whole-grain pasta topped with tomato sauce has approximately half the calories compared to the same serving size of mac and cheese. Whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce is also approximately 90% lower in fat compared to mac and cheese. One cup of whole-grain pasta also wins in the fiber department. It has 6 grams of fiber per cup while mac and cheese has just 1 gram of fiber per cup.

Seafood prepared the right way can be a healthful addition to your diet.

Fried Fish Sticks or Shrimp?

Breaded fish sticks and shrimp are delicious, but they are high in fat, calories, and sodium. You can still enjoy seafood, but plain frozen shrimp and prawns are the better option because they are much lower in fat, calories, and sodium compared to their fried counterparts. Skewer shrimp and prawns and cook them on the grill. You can also dip them into a tasty, low-calorie cocktail sauce. Add shrimp or prawns to pasta or stir-fry vegetable dishes to make a high-protein low-fat snack.

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REFERENCES:

  • USDA National Nutrient Database: “Food Data Central.”
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