Parent, do you enjoy grocery shopping? Do you feel confused about which food product to choose from the shelf? Well, a healthy diet is essential for proper growth and development in children, and this actually starts with making wise grocery choices at the supermarket! In conjunction with World Health Day 2023, celebrated on April 7 every year, we have pieced together some simple tips that you can implement today when you go grocery shopping.
Tip 1: Look out for the Healthier Choice Symbols (HCS) on the packaging
Did you know? Only food products that meet Health Promotion Board’s HCS nutritional criteria will be awarded the Healthier Choice Symbol. Products with the symbol are generally lower in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar and higher in dietary fibre, calcium, and whole grains compared to similar products within the same food category.
Thus, you can simply choose a product labelled with a HSC as it is generally healthier than other similar products. For instance:
- When buying fresh milk, choose a brand with a HSC (Higher in Calcium) for your kid’s bone and teeth health.
- Choose a healthy breakfast cereal with HCS (Higher in Whole-grains) or (Lower in sugar) instead of sugar-frosted cereal or cereal with food colouring.
- When choosing sauces such as soy sauce, tomato sauce and oyster sauce, opt for a brand with less salt by looking out for HCS (Lower in Sodium) on the packaging.
Tip 2: Use the Nutri-Grade mark to guide your beverage purchases
In view that diabetes is a serious public health concern here, our government has introduced a new mandatory beverage labelling system-The Nutri-Grade Mark, this label is required for all beverages sold here in pre-packaged form and from non-customisable automated beverage dispensers. From end 2023, the requirement will be extended to freshly prepared beverages.
In this label system, Grade A, corresponding to the lowest sugar (≤ 1g or no sweetener/100ml) and saturated fat (≤ 0.7g/100ml) thresholds, is in green. Grade D, corresponding to the highest sugar (>10g/100ml) and saturated fat thresholds (>2.8g/100ml), is in red. In addition, Nutri-Grade beverages graded “C” or “D” will be labelled with a Nutri-Grade mark, while labelling of beverages graded “A” or “B” or products endorsed with the Healthier Choice Symbol is optional.
Therefore, when buying packaged milk or juice for your kids, you are encouraged to use Nutri-Grade Mark as a guide! Choose beverages graded “A” or “B”, or choose a beverage with the Healthier Choice Symbol (Lower in sugar).
Are we consuming too much sugar?
Most of us are consuming too much sugar and we should keep our sugar intake less than 10 teaspoons per day (based on a 2000-daily calorie intake). According to National Nutrition Survey, on average, Singaporeans consume 12 teaspoons (58g) of sugar daily! More than half of our daily sugar intake comes from beverages, of which per-packaged beverages contribute 64% and freshly prepared beverages contribute 36%.
Tip 3: Choose fresh and nutrient-dense foods
Buy Protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, tofu, milk and poultry, and a variety of fruits and vegetables that your kids enjoy. Cut down on processed meats like sausage, nuggets or bacon. Choose wholegrain, if possible as they are rich in Fibre, Vitamins and Minerals. For example, opt for wholegrain bread instead of white bread; include barley, corn, oat and brown rice in your kids’ diet. Also, don’t forget about Calcium-rich foods such as fresh milk, cheese and yoghurt for your kid’s bone and teeth health.
Tip 4: Buy healthy snacks for your kids
Growing kids often get hungry between their meal times. Thus, this is a great opportunity to sneak some yummy yet nutritious foods into their diet. Here are some examples of healthy snacks:
- Plain yoghurts served with your kid’s favourite fruits and nuts
- Wholegrain cereal with chopped nuts (almonds and cashews) and dried fruit (raisins and cranberries), serve it with soy milk
- Wholemeal bread with sliced cheese
- Steamed bao or mantou, served with fresh milk
Tip 5: Skip buying junk foods, particularly foods high in sugar
Keep an eye on food labelling and avoid buying food loaded with sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup. For instance, choose plain cornflakes over sugar-frosted cornflakes. Opt for plain Greek yoghurt instead of flavoured yoghurt which is very sweet. Last but not least, say “NO” to junk foods such as chips, sweets, fast foods and soft drinks. These foods are unhealthy as they are high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and food additives.
Use these tips when you go grocery shopping next and be a smart shopper to keep your kids’ health on track!
- How to Read Nutrition Labels. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/873/read-it-right
- Make a Healthier Choice Today https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/211/make_healthier_choice#home
- Make Healthy Food & Grocery Choices. https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/191/nutrition-hub/tools-and-resources
- National Nutrition Survey 2018/2019. Singapore: Health Promotion Board
- Measures for Nutri-Grade Beverage. https://hpb.gov.sg/healthy-living/food-beverage/nutri-grade