Sorting out the Labels

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A lot of people turn the package of food around to read the nutrition facts: they want to know serving size, calories, fat content, and nutrient values. I rarely look at these. Instead, I always read the ingredients. It isn’t hard to learn, it just takes a 5 second scan with your eyes.

I try to follow the rules Michael Pollan describes in his book “Food Rules.” This is a great read for anyone looking to eat healthier.

First, if it has food dye, it goes back on the shelf immediately. Chemical food dyes (especially reds and yellows) have been shown to cause cancer and hyperactivity in children. They are banned in many countries. They are found in tons of processed foods, such as macaroni and cheese, pickles, and juice.

I never buy anything with high fructose corn syrup. Despite those lovely commercials claiming “sugar is sugar, your body can’t tell the difference,” science is saying otherwise. Here is an article describing the effects of HFCS on your body, especially the fat around your midsection.

It’s too long to list all the foods this is added to, but I’ll name a few: bread, fake maple syrup, ketchup, salad dressings, candy, yogurt, cookies, and juice. I have noticed many more brands making a “natural” line or advertising “no HFCS.” Look for these items over the traditional label.

Too much of HFCS gives my husband migraines, which is why I originally cut it out of our diet. If you suffer from migraines, it might be worth a try getting rid of it, too.

Next, if I can’t pronounce several ingredients, I don’t buy it. My favorite example is this Skippy brand peanut butter. Same company, vastly different ingredients. The one on the right can hardly be considered peanut butter.

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Here are two JIF peanut butters. Avoid “fully hydrogenated vegetable oils.” If you want to really go natural, visit a store like Whole Foods and grind your own.

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I try to avoid GMO ingredients. This one is a bit trickier. If it isn’t organic, and contains corn syrup, cottonseed oil, vegetable oils (likely a combination of these), soy-anything, or rapeseed oil I don’t buy it.

I ignore health claims such as “low-fat” and “less sugar.” It’s likely the “fat” is replaced with fake sugar like HFCS or aspartame, which I believe is worse for you anyway.

It’s all about making better choices, not depriving yourself. If you can’t live without cupcakes and cereal, you don’t have to. (I don’t!) If I am at a party, I will eat the dessert, knowing it contains the ingredients I am trying to avoid. Maybe one day, they won’t.

I mostly worry about protecting my baby from a lifetime of GMO ingredients, food dyes, and toxins. These things are harder on their tiny systems, liver, and developing brain. Just take a quick look at diseases in the US among our children and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize it is because of our environment. I care so much about food because it affects all of us- we ALL have to eat, every day. And we should care what it is.

Lunch time! 🙂