As I talk to potential customers at my home tasting parties and chat with those who stop by my table at a fair or event, I find that many of them are confused (rightfully so) when they find out that things like lowfat, organic, and whole grain don’t always mean ‘good for you.’
To eat healthy you need to utilize your detective skills to find the truth behind the labels. For example:
- Good Source of Whole Grains: These items contain 8-15 grams of whole grains per serving (an “excellent” source has at least 16). However, even foods packed with whole grains can include preservatives, fat, sodium, sugar, and other “unhealthy” ingredients. The best sources of whole grains are brown rice, oatmeal, basic bran, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, and 100% whole wheat bread. Remember that the first three ingredients are the majority of the product’s content.
- Organic: All this means is that the item is grown or processed without pesticides or hormones. Organic desserts still contain the same calories as their ‘non organic’ counterparts. Organic pasta sauces can be loaded with sodium. USDA Organic requires 95% organic ingredients, but not 100! So, you can still find MSG, silicon dioxide (such as the packets that absorb moisture in your new shoes), and other unfriendly ingredients in USDA organic products. Remember, organic pertains to how it’s GROWN, but has NO correlation to health benefits! You still need to read the labels and check the sodium, sugar, and fat content.
- Sugar free foods and beverages usually use artificial/man made ingredients and can still be high calorie. If you’re not feeling full, you’ll want more, and may end up consuming MORE than you would of a small portion of the ‘real thing.’
- High fiber speeds up digestion and makes us feel full, but many contain powders like polydextrose and oat fiber. These are NOT the same fiber found naturally in fruits, veggies and whole grains. They can also upset a sensitive stomach or digestive system.
Here are some surprising discoveries:
- most Bran Muffins have fiber, but also have a lot of sugar and saturated fat. Some of the oversized ones (such as bakery and coffee shop versions) can have 500 calories with 14 grams of fat. Sometimes a donut is the healthier choice!
- Diet Soda has artificial sweetners that actually make you crave MORE sweets & carbs. If you drink these in large quantities, it can actually cause you to GAIN weight. Instead, choose a seltzer or a naturally sweetened soda.
- Fortifed Water drinks have a few vitamins and minerals, but these drinks also have excess sugar/sweetners, and therefore extra calories. Eat fresh food for your vitamins, and drink regular water. If you want some flavor in it, opt for a fresh lemon, lime, or a mint leaf.
- Veggie Chips are still fried, so they likely are full of unhealthy fats and a good deal of sodium. Baked chips are still processed and result in empty calories. Instead, try natural popcorn and enjoy the fiber. You can make your own chips by slicing veggies super thin (a food processor can help), brush with some olive oil and spices, and bake at 350 until crisp (7-10 min).
- Granola can be full of sugar and high in calories (such as 16 grams of sugar and 600 calories for a bowl). Look for 10 grams of sugar or less. Use granola as a condiment – sprinkle sparingly, don’t eat in bulk. Granola bars, snack bars, and energy bars are guilty too!
- Jumbo Smoothies contain sugary juices and frozen yogurt, and may be as high as 600 calories! Far from a low-cal drink.
- Yogurt can also have excess sugar (some have 32 grams) per serving. Buy plain yogurt and add fresh fruit!
So open your eyes BEFORE you open your mouth!