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Sensible advice about food choices

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Healthy new grocery products

Rosie Schwartz has a sneak peek of some healthy new grocery products – and healthy imposters

Shopping for food used to be simple. A basic assortment of breads, produce, meat and dairy products were among the available options at the local store. Nowadays, supermarket shelves offer thousands upon thousands of choices. And the numbers seeming to grow every year.

Just how much is new was evident at the recent 2009 Grocery Innovations Canada, a major grocery industry trade exposition in Toronto.

According to the 2009 Tracking Nutrition Trends 20-year Report, a survey conducted by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition Health, nutrition continues to be a driver in consumers’ grocery selections. Eighty-seven percent of Canadians are somewhat or very influenced by their desire to maintain good health. This greater desire for more wholesome fare was definitely evident at the Grocery Innovations Canada show.

To avoid being tempted (and overwhelmed!) promoters of healthy eating often suggest shopping only in the outside aisles of the grocery store, where fresh foods abound. The centre aisles have traditionally been a haven for less nutritious packaged and processed food. But as Grocery Innovations’ sneak peek into new products and trends reveals, there are healthy eats to be found in the centre of the store – though it may take some scrutiny to find them.

Sometimes what is perceived to be a smart choice in terms of nutrition is not necessarily the case, as was demonstrated by my first conversation at the exhibition. For example, when I enquired as to where the healthier fare was being shown, I was told to head to a vitamin water display. Water, sugar and some added vitamins are what make up this beverage. One a day, at around 120 calories per bottle, will yield 43,800 calories per year. That’s about 12.5 pounds. You may want to consider a vitamin pill and a glass of water instead.

Juices also seemed to be a hot commodity with many new products being chock full of superfruits like pomegranate and acai. But drinking lots of sugary beverages, whether made of natural or refined sugar, can send waist measures soaring as they don’t satisfy hunger the way eating the whole fruit does.

Multi-grain was also a buzzword at the show. Though there were quite a few multi-grain products, closer scrutiny revealed that while they contained a variety of grains, not all were whole grain.

Reading ingredient lists is essential to separate refined from whole grain offerings. While it was a pleasant surprise to see multi-grain perogies, the ingredient list revealed that enriched wheat flour – a.k.a. white flour – was the first ingredient. Another ready-to-bake bread product was also touted as a multi-grain. But again, white flour was first on the list. As ingredients are listed in descending order by amount, from the most to the least, look for the words whole grain as the first ingredient if you’re seeking whole grains. Whole grain bars and squares such as Dempster’s Healthy Way Fresh Squares, though, offered fibre-packed convenience and taste along with a variety of seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame.

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