Grocery Shopping for Your Health: The refrigerated case – eggs
Generally, eggs are good for you. They are a good source of protein, with one egg providing almost 10 percent of the protein you need for the day. And, they are a good source of vitamins A and D, as well as phytonutrients. But, they also are high in cholesterol, with each egg packing about five grams of fat, roughly the same as an ounce of cheese.
Sizes and colorsIf you’ve visited the egg section in a grocery store lately, you know eggs come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. While many shoppers might have a preference for shell color—white, brown or otherwise—the color doesn’t affect the nutritional quality of an egg, according to the American Dietetic Association. Rather, the shell color simply varies with the breed of hen, and yolk color depends on the hen’s diet.
Size consideration is a little more important, in part because of how it impacts the total nutrition. The larger the egg, of course, the more nutrients and cholesterol it will contain.
You also might need to consider egg size for your recipes, especially when it comes to baking, since most are written based on the use of “large” eggs. If you need to “convert,” remember that four “jumbo”-sized eggs equal five “large” eggs or six “small” eggs.
As you reach for your container of eggs, have you ever thought about what the grades of eggs mean? Eggs are graded during packaging based on their interior and exterior quality, using the AA, A and B scale. Most eggs sold in grocery stores are Grade A. But, don’t think that you are buying something inferior because you’re not getting AA. Grade A eggs are almost the same in quality as Grade AA (read more at ask.usda.gov).
To be sure the eggs you are purchasing are fresh, always look on the carton to find the date. Some manufacturers will have an expiration date on the carton. If the expiration date on the carton has passed, the eggs can no longer be sold.
But, there’s a little twist.
If eggs come from a USDA-inspected plant, the carton will list a “Julian date” for packing. Based on the Julian calendar, that date will be from one to 365, with one for Jan. 1 and counting up to 365 for Dec. 31. If the carton only shows a Julian date, you can purchase and refrigerate the eggs for four to five weeks beyond the date listed.
Don’t be shy about opening up a carton of eggs before you set them into your cart. If you find a broken or cracked egg, or the eggs are dirty, avoid purchasing that carton. Instead, reach for another carton. And don’t forget to check for the expiration or Julian date.
Concerned about cholesterol? Consider cholesterol-free or reduced-cholesterol egg substitutes. These products leave out the yolk, which you can substitute for with ingredients such as tofu, vegetable oil and beta carotene. For vegans, try egg substitutes using soy-based egg replacements and potato starch.
Grocery stores also have different varieties of egg substitutes that are fast and convenient. One trick I use for my family or egg lovers to mix three parts egg substitute to one part fresh eggs when making scrambled eggs. The end product brings a smile to everyone, including mom.
I can’t leave this blog without mentioning some egg-related food safety.
Handled improperly, eggs are the perfect medium for salmonella growth. So, avoid eating raw eggs and handling broken eggs. This includes items like uncooked cookie dough and homemade mayonnaises or eggnogs or hollandaise sauces, unless these products are made with an unopened carton of pasteurized eggs. A word of caution: once the container of pasteurized eggs is opened, they need to be treated like other eggs.
And remember: when handling raw eggs, always wash your hands when done.
Don’t wash your eggs before storing them in your refrigerator. Like fruits, eggs have a coating that protects the eggs from bacteria, and washing can strip away that protection. And always keep eggs refrigerated, including those beautifully colored Easter eggs.
There is so much more we could talk about with eggs: free range or cage free, knowing when an egg is cooked, and much more. But, we’ll have to save that for another blog.
NEXT: We’ll head over to the canned food aisle (just in time for the heart of hurricane season).