Ladies, one of the main things you will want to use a guide to find out just how processed your food is during our April Challenge is Food Labels. This month we are committed to eating more REAL food and cutting out highly processed food and junk food, so these labels are KEY.
US food labeling requirements mandate that manufacturers give us certain information about the ingredients and nutritional value of foods, but sometimes we don’t pay attention. It’s very easy to see from the numbers, percentages and lists of ingredients that some foods have very little nutritional value and may be contributing to our weight gain. If you really, really want to know if your food is REAL, the food label is the place to look.
Here are some points you can look out for:
- Fat Free/Sugar Free – Don’t believe the claims on the label or the front of the box without thinking about how all of the ingredients can contribute to making a food “fatty”. If a fat free item has a lot of sugar grams listed in the nutrition info, that sugar can be converted to fat in your body. That is the case with “fat-free candy”. LOL! I wish I could just chow down on some gummy, fat free candy as if it’s carrot sticks. Nope.
- “Only 100 calories per serving!” – Make sure you know just how much of a food makes up a serving by checking the food label. You may see that a food is just “XXX calories” but what they don’t like to tell you on the front of the package is that you have to multiply that number by the number of servings. For example, if a bag of chips has 210 calories per serving and there are 4 servings in the bag…you can quickly eat 840 calories in your mid-day snack. Wow! It’s my experience that most of the time, the serving size is very small compared to what most people eat as a serving. A digital kitchen scale can help in this regard so you know exactly how much you are consuming.
- Calorie Counts – I like to think of the calorie counts on food labels as a deterrent to me eating heavy, calorie laden foods. You can’t deny the truth that is a label that telling you that if you eat that pint of ice cream (4 servings at 400 cals per serving) that you will eat 1200 calories. For some, that is their whole calorie intake for the day! Make sure you are checking calorie counts and considering what lower calorie options you could have instead. You may also find that cooking more allows you to better control calories from things like butter, oil, corn syrup, trans-fats, etc.
- Liquid Calories: Food labels on liquids like juice and soda are also very telling. Calories in liquid form have been shown to be a major factor in the rising epidemic levels of obesity in this country. Since there is usually not much fiber in processed sugary drinks, you don’t feel full and there is no protein to balance out the carbs. Your body can experience a sugar high as your blood sugar elevates. Sports drinks, commercial pasteurized or from concentrate juice, sweet tea, soda, coffee drinks, energy drinks…all have little nutritional value when compared to real food options like water, fresh juice and green smoothies. Oh, and don’t think that artificially sweetened is the way to go to avoid calories. It’s thought that some sweeteners can cause bloating, nerve issues and increase your sugar cravings.
- Fats, Cholesterol and Sodium – Everyone focuses on calories, sugar and carbs when they are watching their weight, but many forget about fat, sodium and cholesterol. Watch for this content and limit it as much as you can. There are of course good fats, but you want to look out for saturated and trans-fat as well as cholesterol. Also, too much sodium is going to weak havoc on your body’s need to retain water and can affect your blood pressure in a negative way.
- Here is a great tip on carbs and sugar from Joy Bauer: “Low-quality carbs that shouldn’t take up much space in your daily diet (unless they’re naturally occurring, such as those in unsweetened fruit and dairy products). The USDA recommends limiting “added sugars” from packaged foods and sugar/honey/jelly packets to no more than 40 g per day, the equivalent of 10 teaspoons. But less is best!”
- How do you know what kind of sugar is in a food? – There are so many names for sugars in term of ingredients. Here is a good rule to go by: Look for Syrup, sweetener, and ingredients that end in “ose”. Here are a few examples, but there are many more: corn sweetener, corn syrup, cane juice, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose and glucose.