Help with Choosing Healthy Grocery Products

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Do you need help with choosing healthy grocery products when you go to the store and don’t know where to start? Unsure about how to find products that fit your families dietary needs? If you’ve been following along with our social posts, you may know that May 29th is World Digestive Health Day, with this year’s focus on Obesity.

Dietitians of Canada mentions that in Canada, chronic diseases account for approximately one third of direct health care costs.1 The Canadian population is aging,2 faces high rates of obesity,3,4 and engages in sedentary lifestyle behaviours.5,6 Thus the impact of chronic diseases is likely to continue to increase, unless we take action to address the many factors that influence what we eat. For example, the food and beverages we have at home, in retail food stores, and restaurants can have a big impact on what we eat and drink.

As we previously mentioned here, when it comes to healthy eating, CDHF is aligned with Canada’s Food Guide and always recommends working with a registered dietitian when you have specific dietary requirements like a lot of the digestive conditions we talk about.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends making it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day. Their tips include to:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.
    • Choose foods with healthy fats instead of saturated fat
  • Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts.
    • Prepare meals and snacks using ingredients that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat
    • Choose healthier menu options when eating out
  • Make water your drink of choice
    • Replace sugary drinks with water
  • Use food labels
  • Be aware that food marketing can influence your choices 7
canadas food guide

One great program that we wanted to highlight this month to help in choosing healthy grocery products is Metro’s My Health My Choices program.

Metro’s My Health, My Choices program categorizes thousands of products based on a list of nearly 50 “attributes”. Those attributes include categories such as gluten-free, lactose-free, low FODMAP, plant-based, keto, vegan, whole grain, high source of fibre, and very high source of fibre, and more! 

In alignment with Canada’s Food Guide tips above, we are highlighting a few of Metro’s program’s attributes to help you better understand what they mean and what products contain them in the grocery store.

Whole Grains:

Whole grain foods are an important part of healthy eating, as they include important nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. Foods include quinoa, wild rice, whole grain pasta. Whole grain foods are a healthier choice than refined grains because whole grain foods include all parts of the grain. Refined grains have some parts of the grain removed during processing.

To help find healthy grocery products that are whole grains, search through Metro’s “whole grains” attribute products here.

This label identifies products that are made from whole grain ingredients and specifically include whole grain ingredients as their first ingredient. A whole grain includes all three parts of the kernel (or seed) of the grain: germ, bran and endosperm that contain fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Plant-Based

Canada’s food guide recommends eating protein foods that come from plants more often. Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods, which can be beneficial for your heart health.

Check out some products that are plant-based and some great simple plant-based recipes from Metro here.

Products with the plant-based attribute do not contain meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, or any other animal-derived ingredients.

You can also find some great plant-based, high-protein recipes here.

Fibre

It’s extremely important to make sure you get enough fibre in your diet. The best way to incorporate fibre into your diet is to make sure you’re consuming a high volume of plant-based foods, like fruits, veggies and whole grains.Most of us don’t get enough fibre in our diet. We require 25-38 grams of fibre a day, however, the average North American only reaches about half of that – meaning many people have a large gap that they need to bridge. Learn more about fibre and its benefits here.

Making a few small changes to your repertoire of food can have a profound effect on your health. All types of fibre support digestive and overall health. It is important to eat a variety of foods to get enough of both soluble and insoluble fibre. As you add more fibre to your diet, be sure to start slow and gradually add more. If you want to increase your intake, consider choosing the following:

For help in choosing healthy grocery products that are high in fibre, search through Metro’s “high source of fibre” attribute products here.

Products with the “source of fibre” attribute contain at least 2 grams of fibre per reference amount and serving size.

Products with the “high source of fibre” attribute contain at least 4 grams of fibre per reference amount and serving size.

Products with the “very high source of fibre” attribute contain at least 6 grams of fibre per reference amount and serving size.

Limiting Highly Processed Foods:

Highly processed foods are processed or prepared foods and drinks that add excess sodium, sugars, or saturated fats to the diets of Canadians. These can include things like sugary drinks, deep-fried foods, cookies and cakes, processed meats, sweetened breakfast cereals, etc. The body needs only a small amount of sodium to function properly. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Highly processed foods are readily available and people are eating more of them. Eating too much sodium, sugars or saturated fat can increase your risk of chronic disease.

For products that are unsweetened, meaning they are free from all sweetening ingredients, click here.

These products don’t contain artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, Splenda), natural sweeteners (like agave), sugar ingredients and sugar alcohols (such as sorbitol). However, they may contain naturally occurring sugars (e.g. unsweetened apple sauce).

Have specific dietary requirements?

If you have digestive issues or food sensitivities, Metro’s My Health My Choices program also makes it easy for you to search for products that fit your specific needs. For example, If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you may be on a low FODMAP diet, or looking to try it out.

If you don’t already know, FODMAPs are a group of small carbohydrate (sugar) molecules found in everyday foods. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people. The low FODMAP diet, is increasingly recognized as an effective dietary treatment for IBS, and it’s estimated that around 50% of people with IBS may benefit from one, however the quality of scientific evidence is very low. Of these people, there is possible benefit for overall symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, excess gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.

While we always recommend implementing the low FODMAP diet under the supervision of a health care professional such as a registered dietitian, it would be helpful to know which products in the grocery store are in fact low FODMAP so you can start to plan your meals. Metro’s My Health My Choices allows you to do just that! If you click on the low fodmap category on Metro’s online grocer website you will see a wide range of low FODMAP products, including our friends at FODY Foods who create delicious products for people living with digestive issues and food sensitivities. Fody’s line of low FODMAP, sensitive recipe foods is uniquely formulated with carefully sourced ingredients that promote digestive health. All products are free from any of the triggers commonly associated with digestive discomfort (such as onions, garlic, lactose, and gluten). These include granola bars, condiments, salsas, seasonings, trail mixes, pasta sauces and more!

You got this!

We understand that no two Canadians feel the same way about food. Whether you’re thinking about going gluten-free or trying to eat more organic, Metro’s new dietary attributes make it easy to find the food that meets your family’s needs. Check out all of Metro’s attributes here to find what works best for you, and start choosing healthy products at the grocery store today!

More great resources to check out:

References

1. Public Health Agency of Canada. How healthy are Canadians? A trend analysis of the health of Canadians from a healthy eating and chronic disease perspective [Internet]. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2016 [cited 2018 Sep 14].

2. Statistics Canada. Age and sex, and type of dwelling data: key results from the 2016 census [Internet]. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2017 [cited 2018 Sep 14].

3. Statistics Canada. Body composition of adults, 2012 to 2013 [Internet]. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2014 [cited 2018 Sep 14]. 19. Rao DP, Kropac E, Do MT, Roberts KC, Jayaram

4. Rao DP, Kropac E, Do MT, Roberts KC, Jayaraman GC. Childhood overweight and obesity trends in Canada. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2016;36(9):194–198.

5. Statistics Canada. Directly measured physical activity of children and youth, 2012 and 2013 [Internet]. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015 [cited 2018 Sep 14].

6. Statistics Canada. Directly measured physical activity of adults, 2012 and 2013 [Internet]. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015 [cited 2018 Sep 14].

7. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.” Health Canada, Government of Canada, 1 April 2021 https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/