We’ve all made countless day-to-day lifestyle changes in the wake of the pandemic. Going out to eat—even if restaurants are reopening for indoor dining in some parts of the country—still poses a risk, which makes doing your own food shopping at the grocery store and eating at home the safer bet. Nielsen research reports that 54% of Americans are cooking more now than before the pandemic, so that’s a great sign.Plus, buying your own food at the grocery store can be a positive and healthy change that can vastly improve your diet—that is, if you’re reading nutrition labels and making informed buying decisions. However, new data shows that most shoppers are still turning a blind eye to what’s going in their carts… and bodies. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)According to Shorr’s first Food Packaging&Consumer Behavior Report, only one in four people “always” read food labels when grocery shopping. That’s only 25% of the grocery store-visiting population. Others admit that they read labels “most of the time” (45%), “sometimes” (24.5%), “rarely” (5%), or “never” (0.5%).

Interestingly enough, the same report shows that food packaging and labels have hugely impacted how people food shop and what they choose to buy, especially within the past three months. The data shows:

– 47% of people purchased food brands that they were previously unfamiliar with because of the product’s packaging– 64% have paid more for a food product with popular labeling (think: “organic” and “GMO-free”)

– 49.5% cite the ingredients list as the aspect of packaging that they trust the mostWhy you should always read nutrition labels
If a food item entices you enough to grab it off the shelf, it’s important to always read and understand its nutrition facts and ingredients before you buy it (and eat it).

For one, a whopping 74% of packaged foods in grocery stores are made with added sugars, according to a study published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrtion and Dietetics. And diets high in “bad stuff” like sugar, saturated fats, and salt can lead to severe health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

All “healthy snacks” aren’t created equally, either. For instance, hummus is generally known to be nutritious—but if you compare labels and ingredients across brands, you’ll see that some are made with less-desirable ingredients like soybean oil, excess sodium, and hard-to-pronounce preservatives. (BTW, Eat This, Not That! regularly does the label-reading for you to determine the best brands to be buying. For instance, here are the 7 best healthy hummus brands to buy.)

If you have food allergies and sensitivities, that’s another important reason to double-check what exactly is in a food item before you buy it.

The information on nutrition labels is there for you to be a smart consumer—and sometimes, it’s even right there on the front of the package. Taking the extra few seconds to read packaging labels before taking food home will benefit you and your health in the long run.

The good news is that according to the same report, 66% of people said they will pay more attention to food labels and packaging moving forward.

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