What’s Really in My Food? Label Reading 101

Eating healthy would be easier if what we saw was actually what we got, right? We see lettuce, we get lettuce; an apple is simply that, an apple.apples-214148_640 The food industry has come a long way since the days of bartering butter for eggs, but like everything in life, with the good comes the not so good. And so it is with food.

This topic is very lengthy. Here is a very brief overview and I will go into more detail over the course of future blogs.

Serving Size. This fact makes me laugh. If I had offered my adolescent sons “one serving” of pasta or cereal, I would have been accused of starving my children. Most of us adults consume a quantity of food that is more than we actually need. The problem occurs when we believe that we only had one serving and we probably ate twice that. Remember February’s Habit and stop at 80% full.

Ingredients. It is true that these are listed in order of the highest content first. Be wary of this list when it is as long as your arm. When you can’t pronounce the words and have no idea what they are, odds are you shouldn’t eat it.  sherlock-holmes-147255_640

Natural, Real Juice, Healthy. Food companies love to use these words in their names and on the labels. Whatever is inside the box or bottle is perceived to go along with these claims. Read the Nutrition Facts.

AHA (American Heart Association) Trademark. A food or beverage may be considered ok for your heart health, but may not good for the rest of you.

Trans fats. If the label reads “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” “shortening,” “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” “margarine,” then you are eating trans fats. Eating these contributes to a variety of health issues. You can typically find trans fats in various baked goods, fried foods, crackers, cookies, some soups, dressings, oh the list goes on. And don’t assume because it reads “Zero Trans Fat” that it’s ok. Read the ingredient list anyway. In the United States, if the food has less than 0.5 Grams of trans fat, it can state “Zero.” Any amount is too much.

And More. Other “not so good” ingredients to be wary of: artificial vegetarian-233834_640sugars (terms such as Lite, Light, Zero, on the label), artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and items marketed as Fat Free. Our bodies get confused by all of this. Be kind to you.

My Advice: Eat REAL food as much as possible. Do the best you can. Choose ONE thing to look for that you would like to eliminate or begin to cut down on in order to avoid overwhelm. Practice reading the labels on foods you eat and understand that changing habits takes time and patience.

*This information is not intended to help cure, treat, diagnose or prevent any disease state. Any questions you have concerning food as it pertains to a specific medical condition should be addressed with your physician.

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  Michael Pollan

P.S.  If you are looking for a system to help you stay healthier, lose weight and have more energycontact me today!  It’s never too late to form new habits.

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