Shop Smart: Finding the Healthiest Options

Q. We just moved to Texas from Ireland.  I am trying to find a bread in local markets that has no sugar and low salt.  I am also trying to find canned/jars of plain crushed tomatoes with no salt as I make my own sauce. I am shocked at the amounts of salt and sugar in everything here in the USA.   

A. When you eat foods that are high in salt and/or sugar, you get accustomed to a greater degree of saltiness and sweetness.  I guess the selection of processed foods you’re finding in American grocery stores shows what we’ve become accustomed to.  (The good news? It works both ways: You can retrain your tastebuds to prefer less salt and sugar by gradually decreasing the amounts.)

See also:  The Great Salt Debate

It should be possible to find some brands that are lower in salt and sugar, though, even in a mainstream grocery store.  Ezekiel, Pepperidge Farm, and Nature’s Own all make breads that are relatively low in salt and sugar, for example. Hunt’s and DelMonte both produce canned tomatoes with no salt.

To make the hunt for healthier options a little easier, check out the following tools:

Fooducate  A “personal grocery advisor” dedicated to helping you find the healthiest options at mainstream grocery stores.  With their free mobile app, which is currently available for iPhone and Android, you can scan the bar codes on food packages to get a summary of the pros and cons and a “grade” for that food along with suggestions for healthier alternatives.  Here’s an explanation of how they grade foods.

Shopwell  Create a free profile on their website and indicate which nutrients or ingredients you want more of or  or want to avoid (or choose from several pre-set profiles for a variety of health conditions). Then, search the database of brand-name foods to find ones that match your criteria.  You can save and print lists on your home computer, or download their free iPhone app to take it with you.

Online Grocery  Shopping Sites  Many grocery stores have a website that allow you to order your groceries and have them delivered. Even if you don’t want to have your groceries delivered, the databases that power these websites can be useful.  For example, the website  for my local chain (Peapod for Giant Foods) shows the nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists for tens of thousands of national brands. Search for “canned tomatoes” and you can sort the matches by their sodium and sugar content. You can even set up a “nutri-filter” to show you the brands that meet your particular requirements.

Grocery Store Survival Guide  For more advice, see my  new e-book, Grocery Store Survival Guide, available for just $1.99  (electronic edition only).  Click here to read a free chapter.




4 thoughts on “Shop Smart: Finding the Healthiest Options

  1. Monica,
    Thanks for the Mention! Note that ShopWell takes the extra step to make personalized recommendations to help people make the right choices for them people can sign up for these weekly personalized tips at We are always looking for ways to improve our site and app! People can email in their thoughts at thanks again for the great write up!

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