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How Skimpflation May Be Affecting Your Diet

Posted on November 9, 2022 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Inflation is hitting us hard—which can especially be seen in the grocery aisles. It’s been said that it will be less expensive this year to eat out on Thanksgiving than cook at home. (Whether it’s healthier or tastier remains to be seen.)   

Prices of goods that aren’t rising are often being altered: the term “shrinkflation” was recently coined to describe how brands are reducing the amount of product while keeping the price the same. And now, the new term is “skimpflation,” where brands are reformulating their products with cheaper ingredients to reduce manufacturing costs while—you guessed it—keeping prices the same.  

For example, it’s been reported that one brand has replaced real almonds with almond flavoring. Another has traded potatoes for water, while another still has reduced the amount of oil in its product. 

“Salt and sugar are easy, cheap ways to add flavor—so it wouldn’t be surprising if some brands are simply swapping out ingredients for added salt and sugar,” says Allegra Picano, RDN, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health. “You might unknowingly keep buying the same food items without realizing the difference in formulation—potentially sacrificing the nutrition value and compromising your health.” 

How To Be A Savvy Shopper Amidst Skimpflation  

Trips to the grocery store might often consist of tossing a memorized list of family favorites into the cart. And while it might require a little more time and energy in the aisles, there are ways to prevent your diet from suffering amidst inflation. (And who knows—you might develop healthier shopping habits along the way!) 

Here are a few ways to know you’re getting quality products:  

  1. Read the nutrition labels, even on foods you routinely buy. The ingredient that comes first is the one that’s most prevalent. So if you're buying potato soup, for example, and the first ingredient is water, chances are you'll be missing out on that potato-y goodness. “Or, if you're buying multigrain bread but the first ingredient is unbleached enriched wheat flour, this means they stripped the grains of its nutrients and then added them back in, reducing the nutrient content,” says Picano. “Breads that list whole grains—like whole wheat—as the first ingredient are your best bet.” 
  2. Be wary of natural flavor swaps. Natural flavor means that instead of using the real ingredient (protein-rich almonds, for example) almond flavor was simply extracted from the almonds. Natural flavor has no nutritional value. A perfect example? Strawberry candy contains strawberry flavoring, but it usually doesn’t contain real strawberries. If you want the real thing, make sure to read the nutrition label.
  3. Go for low sodium alternatives. Pre-packaged food items like soup are often high in sodium. Go for the salt-free or low sodium alternatives. Better yet? Grab a low-sodium broth, some potatoes, carrots, chicken and herbs and make a big pot of your own hearty stew.  
  4. Opt for whole food snacks. One way to guarantee you won’t be fooled by sneaky food swaps? Instead of cereal, crackers, chips or cookies, choose whole food snacks like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, apples, avocado, celery and carrots. “Not only will you ensure that unhealthy ingredients aren’t being added into your foods, but you’ll be getting a lot more nutrients in the process,” says Picano. “Along with antioxidants, fruits and veggies have great fiber content, while nuts have healthy fats and proteins that can fill you up and prevent you from overindulging." If possible, shop at your local farmer’s market. It's a great way to know you'll be consuming quality whole foods. It also allows you to support local farmers—and the produce tastes great, too!  
  5. Check the nutrition label for added sugars. Simple sugars are naturally occurring in many plant and animal products—even yogurt and milk. It’s the added sugars that are often the most harmful to our health. Luckily, nutrition labels indicate whether any sugar was added after the fact—and how many grams. 

Of course, inflation also means that prices of eggs, produce and meat are increasing. So while it may be healthier to buy whole food items, they’re also becoming more expensive. Do your best: Buying frozen fruits and veggies are healthy but may last longer—and might be less expensive—than fresh produce. Same goes with canned veggies. Quinoa, brown rice, beans and lentils are always healthy protein options and tend to be on the less expensive side. Healthy eating may take a bit more time and effort, but there are ways to prevent it from making your grocery bill sky high, too. 

To find registered dietitian at Henry Ford, call 1-855-434-5483 or visit henryford.com/nutrition.

Allegra Picano is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Categories : EatWell

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