Here is a refresher on how to help you make nutritious, safe and healthy food selections for you and your family.
Recently, out of curiosity, I attended a big box grocery store supported workshop on Nutrition and Food Labelling and there are obviously myths and misunderstandings about our food and labelling – and sorry folks but you have to do your own homework to eat healthy. Nutrition information on food labels can be both frustrating and confusing and it really should not be that way. Some of my statements or recommendations seem so logical so if you are past labelling 101 – please skip this article.
A few observations
~ from the (45 minute) workshop on nutrition
- The word “preservative” as it pertained to food labels was mentioned once to my recollection but bearing in mind this was a presentation for a food department store
- Pesticides were mentioned briefly with the suggestion to
a) Peel the fresh product (usually discarding a large percentage of fibre)
b) Washing removes some of the residual chemicals but often it is inside
- A participant asked if buying “Organic” is a worthwhile. This question was basically sidestepped
- A valuable suggestion from the presenter was to look up the PAN Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables online (both the link and the list is at the end of this article). These are fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residuals.
- A time saving suggestion each time you shop, was to read one or two labels of products you purchase frequently and also compare them to other similar products. Switch to the “healthiest” and try a few more next time.
What’s in a label?
Here’s my recommendations on what to quickly check for and consider buying another, hopefully healthier, product IF:
- A label has more than 15 or 20 ingredients
- Many of the listed ingredients are “chemicals” such as nitrites, sulphates, sulphites, potassium such as above photo
- The printing is so small you cannot read it (I am not joking!)
- Always check for additives and preservatives ~ artificial, synthetic, etc. (if you can work this out) especially if you have known allergies such as MSG, nuts, asthma, etc.
- What are the nutrition facts for the portion size given
- What is the expiry date? Really !
The First Four Ingredients
Pass over all processed products if one or more of the first FOUR ingredients listed are :
- Salt or sodium derivatives
- Glucose, fructose or sucrose (all sugars). Read those dried fruit labels carefully!
- Corn syrup. See CAP article on Obesogens
- White flour (this is my personal winner of “where has all the goodness gone”!)
The first ingredient on a label is the highest content in the product; and the more processed a food is, with a lot of artificial or synthetic additives, usually the less nutrition it has. To my mind, the chicken pie (photo above) epitomizes all that is not good in processed food today.
Eating food is something we do every day and spend a lot of money on over the period of a year or a lifetime. It is especially important for those with babies and children to limit additives and preservatives, especially in the very early years, as studies are finding that diet is playing a more important part in their development. So please read your food labels. I believe it is important to cut down on toxic food in our diet and exercise the power of the purchasing dollar by not buying products which make us ill.
Fresh Organic Produce
- We try to buy organic alternatives to fresh produce with high chemical residuals, which are listed on the Dirty Dozen (see link below) such as strawberries, peppers, spinach, cherries, blueberries, apples, potatoes, etc
- We do not buy fresh or organic produce from any other country except from Canada and the U.S.A.
- We try to buy local as much as possible especially Certified Organic from the province of British Columbia. Always a good choice. See CAP article in additional reading.
Accurate, honest labelling should be a right of the consumer to know what is in the “food” you and your family eat. It’s way past time to require (by law) food producers and processors to reveal what is “hidden” in our food if there is a hint of harmfulness in an ingredient. More than ever before “you are what you eat” has never had more meaning, or long term “side affects”. Take care and good luck!
Links & References
- All about organic in B.C.
- Remember – there are many chemicals used in food processing which do not have to be included on the label – read all about hexane – a neurotoxin and byproduct of the petroleum industry – used in processing your food. In the USA look for certified Organic which bans the use of hexane
- Children and diet related diseases such as obesity, diabetes II, asthma and cancer
- Check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen fruits and vegetables on Wikipedia Pesticide Residue
- Food labelling changes in Canada 2012 leaving Canadian consumer in the cold when it comes to nutrition and will be a case for “consumer beware”
More from Caramel & Parsley
- A big box store pie with 78 ingredients listed on the label. Frankly, I still have difficulty believing this
- The “gold standard” of BC Certified Organic check mark (a big green tick!)
- The Organic Capital of Canada right here in B.C.
Know where you Shop – The Store set up
- The “good” foods (and less processed) are usually around the perimeter of the store i.e fresh fruit, vegetables, bakery (can be tricky if an in store bakery), eggs and dairy and meats
- The food products the store wants you to buy will be easy to see, at the end of an aisle or at the “end of your arm”
- Contrarily, similar produce which may have less ingredients (often a good thing) or be more reasonably priced are at floor or head level on the shelves
- Have you noticed shopping buggys are getting bigger? There’s a reason for this and yes, it is a known statistic – the bigger the buggy – the more money customers spend. Pick the smaller buggy or basket when you shop
- Vance Packard wrote “The Hidden Persuaders” about our need to buy in 1957. The book details various types of consumer manipulation through analysis of consumers subconscious needs and the way this information is used to convince consumers to buy all sorts of items from cake mixes to motor boats. Still worth a read if you are interested in how we are convinced to buy something we don’t really need