Food shopping is a chore. When you get behind that cart you want to fill it up and check out as quickly as possible. But as you speed through the aisles do you really know what you’re stocking up on?In this week’s column I want to share with you a great tool that helps make food shopping faster and healthier.Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Fooducate and it’s one of many sites popping up on the web designed to help us shop smarter, to educate us on the products we buy and in this case, to make the weekly chore of shopping not so onerous.THIS STUDY, EXPLAINED: Comfort Foods Reduce LonelinesThe Fooducate website is set up to tell you in a simple manner (and I love anything made simple) if a particular food is healthy. Search for a particular item and it tells you how much sugar it contains, how much salt, how much fat, any additives, etc. Then it gives you a grade—color-coded, no less!—from A to D. Just like school, nobody wants to bring home a B-minus (or worse)!
Curious to see how our food shopping purchases stacked up, one of my kids and I went onto Fooducate. Then we opened up the refrigerator and pantry cupboards and got to work. We typed in a variety of foods that we already had on hand to see what the site had to say about them. And…I was surprised. Truly.The most shocking example? Ketchup. OK, so I know most ketchups are not the best for you—in fact, many have high fructose corn syrup or other sugars in the first few ingredients. I thought I was doing relatively well, though. I had an organic ketchup, one with only seven ingredients that my kids and I can understand (a nod to Michael Pollan, here: “Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”). The first ingredient was organic tomato puree. That has to be good, right? Not so fast. The grade: a whopping C. What?! The site explains its grading and I learned that all the ketchups got bad marks because of their sugar and salt content.COLUMN: A Beautiful MindWhat to do? Ketchup tastes good and is full of lycopene (a great antioxidant), and we didn’t want to miss out. So, instead of using that ketchup that night, we quickly made our own version! Freshly grated garlic in olive oil, unsalted diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and just a pinch of salt, sugar and fresh pepper in a saucepan and, voila, healthy homemade ketchup. Mmm.Of course, you’re not going to make a home version of every packaged food product that scores low. But you can buy better products in the first place, and that’s where the Fooducate app for Android and iPhone comes in especially handy. When you’re at the supermarket, use the camera on your phone to scan the barcodes of items as you’re putting them in your cart. The app will instantly give you the food’s grade and key content stats. If you don’t like what you see, it automatically suggests healthier alternatives in the same aisle. Couldn’t be easier.MORE: Are You Getting Too Much Protein?I certainly got Fooducated. Now it’s your turn!