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Shopping smart and healthy at the grocery store

Nutritionist Miranda Malisani has tips for grocery shopping and food storage that are easy, healthy and smart.

Smart Grocery Shopping and Storage Tips:

Tip #1 - Be Prepared – Make a list

Life is busy…you stop at the grocery store after work because you are so hungry and the family needs dinner and you reach for the most appealing item to you.. this is not often the healthiest choice.  Start re-thinking your weekly food routine. Get yourself out of this cycle. Be ahead of yourself. Prepare your list, know what good fuel is right for your family and make it happen!


Health & Fitness

Grocery List

Download your own printable grocery list here

Tip #2 - Be a Critical Consumer 

There are many great products being produced out there, but it is always important to remember when you are shopping that producers want you to buy their version. Fancy packaging, smart lingo and catch phrases can lead us to buy something that is not necessarily as healthy as we think.

80% of Canadians look for a health check on a package before purchasing it even though there is no standard set of criteria. Lesson is to evaluate for yourself and for your family if this is the healthiest choice.  There’s a reason that Kale doesn’t come packaged with a health check. Reading labels is the way to this understanding. As a critical consumer understanding the difference between a good fat and a bad fat, healthy levels of sodium and alternate names for sugar, and artificial ingredients is crucial.


Tip #3 - Stay Focused

Don’t let those fancy convenient packages pull you into the inner part of the store. Resist those buy 4 and get 2 free sales as they are often

processed and refined products and they can contribute to weight gain and poor health in the long term. Spend most of your time shopping on the outer edges of the store. This is where the most nutrient-power packed foods reside.

Fill your cart with:

  • Fresh produce
  • Fish, meat and alternative proteins (beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh)
  • Good quality dairy (try plain low fat yogurt, kefir, goats milk products or dairy alternatives)

Filling your cart with whole, fresh foods will give you the fuel you need to get more out of your day.

Tip #4 - What foods to buy Organic

Avoiding pesticides and chemicals is important for maintaining a healthy body, but not all produce is as important to buy organic.

The following 12 foods are the most chemically altered and are best to buy organic:Spinach, Celery, Bell Peppers, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, grapes, potatoesDon’t worry as much about fruits and veggies with a thicker skin (sweet potatoes, and avocados)

Tip #5 - Challenge Yourself 

Try something new.

Start the opposite way that you normally do in the grocery store. Pick up a vegetable that you have never used in your cooking. Go to the health section of the grocery store if it has one and take a look at a new product.  Read the label and the ingredients. Small shopping changes can turn into big health changes. Too often we get comfortable with our regular shopping routine that we realize we have been eating the same way for years!

Changing up what’s in your cart can change up your health and wellbeing. Challenge yourself to shop for health. Remember the body requires variety so have fun at the grocery store and explore! Shopping is very important, but so is preparing and storing the food that we buy.An estimated 11-13 million suspected cases of food borne illness occurred last year in Canada.

We may not be taking the precautions necessary with our food. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, food borne illness can be very dangerous.The expiry date a.k.a the durable life date is valid only for unopened product. Once opened, the product should be consumed rapidly. Foods susceptible to spoilage should not be consumed if the “best before” date is passed. Even if a food shows no signs of spoilage, it can harbour pathogenic microorganisms that can cause food borne illness.

Foods that are not susceptible to spoilage can usually be consumed past their “best before” date; these foods may have lost some of their original flavour and nutritional value. Use your senses (sight, smell) and common sense to decide if it is appropriate to eat it. When in doubt, throw it out.

Here are some terminology when understanding reading the expiry dates:Terminology"Best before" - Also known as "durable life," this label indicates the amount of time a product will retain its freshness, colour, nutritional value and flavour. It is mandatory on pre-packaged products that have a shelf life of 90 day or less. Remember, once the seal is broken, the best before date is no longer valid."Expiry" - Expiration dates are found on dietary supplements and infant formula.

After this date has passed, the manufacturer cannot guarantee the unopened product will retain the nutritional content indicated on the label."Packaged on" - This is the date a product is placed in the package it is to be sold in. It's often accompanied by a best before date, and appears mostly on bakery products, such as bread. 

So here are a few foods to think more about:

  • Yogurt may be a type of good bacteria, but not watching expiry dates can cause other not so friendly bacteria to grow at fast rate and make you sick.
  • Once yogurt is opened it should be consumed within 3 days.
  • Generally, the softer the cheese the less time it will keep. Soft cheese is approx 1 week, semi-soft cheese is 2-3 weeks, hard cheese 5 weeks, firm up to 10 months. 
  • Leaf lettuce should only be kept from 3 to 7 days

Food Storage Tips

# 1. Placement 

Very important to keep certain food items away from each other.

Produce and ready to eat items should always be kept away from, poultry, meat, eggs and seafood. Think about this when you are grocery shopping – keep these items in separate bags. Many stores now have plastic bags to wrap around your meat products. In the fridge, make sure that these items are away from each other and covered properly.

Harmful bacteria can contaminate other foods leading you susceptible to food borne illnesses.

#2 Temperature:

General rule of thumb is to never leave food out for more than 2 hours.

Bacteria will begin to grow at a fast rate after this time.There are few items that I think we are generally confused about when it comes to refrigerating.

Eggs: should always be kept under 4C, or 40FTo kill all bacteria eggs should also be cooked to 74C, 165F

EGG TIP: you can tell if an egg is old if it floats to the top of a pot of water.   The air cell in the large end of the egg has grown very large, an indication of a low quality egg.A fresh egg should sink. 

Pure Nut Butters: Should be stored in the fridge to avoid the nuts becoming rancid. Prolonged heat can cause these good fats to become bad fats.

Ketchup is also better to store in the fridge to maintain its stability.Heat can alter any ingredient.

#3 Container:

Maple syrup is another one we aren’t sure how to keep. Do we put it in the cupboard or fridge? Pure maple syrup should always be stored in the fridge.

It’s free from preservatives and will get moldy if left out for too long. 

It can keep much longer in a glass bottle than plastic. It can last for about 3-4 months if in this. Generally, keeping foods in a glass container is much more health promoting.  

Plastic containers can contain bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA can leach into your food when stored in plastic containers, particularly if you place hot foods into them or reheat the food in the same container. Some research suggests that long-term exposure to BPA can cause endocrine disorders and even cancer.

Honey is also better stored in a glass container. It is not necessary to store honey in the fridge, but keeping it in a tight container away from heat is better for keeping.


Additional Tips:

  • Leftovers should be thrown out after 3 days. Or if you are making a big batch of something freeze it on the first day.
  • Never defrost anything at room temperature. You can either leave it in the refrigerator, or immersed in cold water.
  • Make sure to cook your food item to the right internal temperature. It is not enough to just look at it to tell if it is done. Invest in an appliance thermometer to tell for sure.

Food temperature chart: http://www.canfightbac.org/cpcfse/en/cookwell/charts/

When in doubt, throw it out.   If a food has gone bad don’t take a chance.

Many are confused with cheese. The common comment is it’s moldy already –it’s cheese, but it’s the type of mold. Is it one the body can recognize and handle or one that can cause a food borne illness. Cheese that has become visibly moldy should be throw out as it’s too hard to tell how moldy the cheese really is by looking.

Bananas and apples can be used when it goes brown for baking but there are not many other foods that I would recommend using once it’s turned.

Food begins decomposing from the minute it is picked from the ground, so if it looks bad it probably doesn’t have many nutrients left either.

After handling raw meat, eggs seafood, poultry wash your hands for a minimum of 20 secs. Sing the happy birthday song and it should be enough.

Fruit & Vegetable Wash
1 cup water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp. baking soda
20 drops of grapefruit seed extract*

Combine all ingredients in a large container. Then, transfer to a spray bottle with a pump. Spray mixture on produce, and rinse thoroughly after 5 to 10 minutes.

For more info visit www.stilltasty.com

For more food storage tips go to www.canfightbac.org.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

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