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Grocery Store Dictionary

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

The grocery store can be one overwhelming MOFO!

Don’t worry we have all been there… on the way to the store you are daydreaming of all the healthy yummy things to stock your kitchen with just to realize once you arrive that you have no idea what the best options are!

So many diet foods claim to be your friend but, are they? So many bright labels that must mean good things… right?

The Lowdown on Food Labels

The good news is that food labels can’t lie! The not-so-good news is that although they cannot purposefully mislead you, that line gets blurred quite often.

I have put together a small dictionary of terms we run into while shopping to help you make more informed decisions on your own! some of the terms and their meaning may seem like… well duh! and others are going to get a little science-y but I think it will all prove to be useful. The more ya know right?

Sus’ Grocery Store Dictionary

Alkaline- a reference to pH- basic (not acidic) the claim on alkaline water is that it will help regulate your body pH (your body pH is more acidic when you eat more junkie foods) your bodies pH can be regulated naturally though by eating well, so I wouldn’t stress about it. Almonds, avocados, asparagus, and cauliflower are some examples of foods that are naturally alkaline.

BCAA’s- Branched chain amino acids often used to prevent fatigue and enhance workout performance. IS found naturally in protein.

BPA Free- Bisphenol A is used in plastic and lining of cans and has been shown to be linked to several health conditions. Many plastics that advertise being BPA free are just replaced with another chemical is equally as bad. my suggestion is- use glass as much as possible and never eat or drink out of plastics that have been left in the sun!

Calorie- A measurement of the amount of energy a food will provide your body

Calorie free- Less than 5 calories per serving

Dairy Free- Not containing lactose casein or whey, not derived from animal milk. You would seek this if you are vegan or allergic to dairy.

Enriched Food- Food that has nutrients added back into it. (After processing has killed them)

Fortified Food- Foods that have nutrients added (breakfast cereals are a good example of this, its how they justify marketing themselves as healthy)

Gluten Free- Gluten is simply a term to describe wheat proteins. You only need to be concerned about it if you have a gluten sensitivity, a wheat allergy, or celiac disease.

Heart Healthy- A health claim that is approved by the FDA. It must not be misleading, but take with a grain of salt because it does not mean the food in its entirety is healthy.

Hydrogenated Oil- Trans fats that have been made artificially by adding an extra hydrogen to a vegetable oil. (the technical stuff isn’t so important just know these fats are bad news bears for your body!) since they are artificially made they are super hard for your body to break down and so almost always get stored. You wont see this term advertised anywhere but it is important to know where these oils are found, here are some examples- Smart balance or any butter imitation spread, coffee creamers, fried foods, ready to use dough, packaged snacks.

High Fiber – More than 5g per serving

Low Calorie- 40 or less per serving

Low Fat- 3g or less per serving (be aware that to make things low fat, hydrogenated oils are often used)

Low Fat Milk- Low fat milk has to be fortified with nutrients because so many are lost in the process of making it low fat. But heres the real kicker, a lot of vitamins, like vitamin C are fat soluble and don’t even get absorbed into your body when they aren’t eaten with enough accompanying fat.

Low Glycemic- The glycemic index measures how carbs affect your blood sugar. This is usually in reference to sweeteners. (The lower on the glycemic index a food is the less it provokes an insulin response)

Monounsaturated fat- This fat has one double bond, this just means that the fat is less stable and needs to be handled more carefully or it oxidizes. (who cares right?) Fats that oxidize promote free radicals in your body and this leads to aging and poor cell health.

Natural Flavoring- Okay this one is really bogus! We have all been there, staring at a package of gummy snacks wondering how in the hell there is anything natural about them. Well to tote this label the only requirement a food need is that the flavor is derived from something edible. The chemicals that make artificial flavors and the chemicals that make natural flavors are often ones and the same. One was just originally derived from something edible and the other well.. isn’t. None the less at the end of the day this label really adds no health value to food.

NON GMO- An indicator that no genetic modification has been done.

Omega 3- These fats are all the craze right now, probably because they are awesome for your cell health and decrease inflammation. Avocados, fish oils, flax, and chia all contain this fat.

Omega 6- This fatty acid is found in saturated fats and often gets a bad rap but is actually used by your body in a 1:1 ratio with its counterpart Omega 3. This fat is important to muscle growth and brain function.

Polyunsaturated- This is the most sensitive of the fats and oxidizes much easier than any of the others so don’t cook with these because they cannot withstand high heat.

Protein- Protein is your body's building block. But beware of the protein craze, it is recommended that protein only consists of 10-35% of your daily food intake

Saturated Fat- This is the most stable fat for your body and is a great fat to cook with as it withstands heat very well. Saturated fat has gotten a horrible reputation over the years but it is in fact very useful to the body. (coconut oil is an exceptional saturated fat because it is great to cook with and has a chemical structure that is very easily broken down by the body)

Sugar Free- Less than .5g (but remember, it must be replaced with something!)

Trans Fat – The worst fat for you!! and I'm going to leave it at that.


Wow okay, that was a lot.. I've poured myself a hefty glass of wine and I suggest you do the same! Happy shopping guys, until next time!


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