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How to Pick Healthy Foods at the Supermarket In a Hurry

Everyone is "crazy busy" these days, which leaves little time for leisurely trips to the grocery store—and hardly any time to scan a food's nutrition label before throwing it in the shopping cart.

In fact, a recent Journal of Customer Behavior report says that, on average, people spend no more than 10 seconds—yes, seconds—examining the information on the back of a product, which spells trouble for shoppers trying to lose weight. According to the research, time-strapped shoppers are more apt to buy products that don't align with their health goals because they're baffled and overwhelmed by nutrition labels and they don't have time to figure out what everything means while standing in the middle of the store.

Sound like a familiar struggle? Prioritizing certain nutrition indicators can help. Here, Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group identifies the most important label elements to scan for if you only have 10 seconds to spare:

Scary Ingredients

Always look at the ingredient list first. "Try to avoid buying anything that contains ingredients a five year old can't pronounce or that didn't come straight from the earth," says Moskovitz. If from time to time you pick up something with high fructose corn syrup or an artificial additive, so be it, but Moskovitz says hydrogenated oil (a man-made trans fat that raises the risk of heart attack) is a non-negotiable. Foods made with mostly whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole wheat and milk are your best bets.

Sugar and Saturated Fat

Next, Moskovitz says to look at the sugar and saturated fat content. "Any packaged product you buy should have fewer than eight grams of sugar per serving and no more than three grams of saturated fat," she suggests. The majority of these healthy low-sugar snacks fit the bill.


If you're buying bread or a cereal product, "aim for at least four grams of fiber per serving, and make sure the first ingredient listed is 100% whole wheat or whole grain," notes Moskovitz.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh