Supermarket shelves are loaded with thousands of packaged products, and while some of them are good for us, others are not.

Atlantic Superstore has now taken a big step towards making its store-brand products a little healthier by removing the artificial flavours and colours from more than 4,000 items.

Dietitian Anne Marie Armstrong says there are many natural ways to colour food.

"Black pasta is actually coloured with squid ink, which is an interesting one,” says Armstrong. “As well as paprika, would be another one that President’s Choice line will use to colour their products.”

Armstrong says the changes have been made to meet consumer demand. Shoppers want convenience foods, but they also want to make healthier choices.

"There is some bodies of research that indicate artificial flavours and artificial colours can be linked to things like hyperactivity and allergies, so those things obviously are a concern for many people in our population."

Bohdan Lohovyy, assistant professor of Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University, says natural flavours and colours come from edible sources - everything from flowers to insects.

“And artificial might be derived from some other sources, for example, from some coal, from petroleum, etc,” says Lohovyy.

He says products that have been flavoured and coloured naturally are preferable.

Not only do these additives make foods brighter and tastier, there can also be additional health benefits.

"Many of them, for example, are antioxidants. Many have some other functional properties. So we can use those ingredients for dual or triple purposes."

While natural may be the best choice, foods containing artificial enhancers are still safe to consume.

In Canada, what we eat is regulated by the Food and Drug Act.

"All colourants, for example, have to be listed in division 16 of food and drug regulations, and only those listed in division 16 can be used for food purposes,” says Lohovyy.

Armstrong says the best way to avoid artificial ingredients is to opt for naturally colourful foods.

“Obviously, choosing whole foods more often, all those things have pretty colours to begin with,” says Armstrong. “Choosing a variety of foods, so choosing less packaged food or mixing up the types of food your family eats.”