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 buy often and 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 5 to 10 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 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!
- Sugar or Corn syrup, dextrose, etc. See CAP article on Obesogens
- White flour (this is my personal winner of "where has all the goodness gone"!)
The first ingredients on a label are the highest content in the product. Often some are duplicated with different names eg MSG and sugars. The more processed a product is: ie containing sugars and artificial or synthetic additives, white flours, etc. usually the less nutrition it has. To my mind, the chicken pie (photo above) epitomizes all that is not healthy 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, and sugars 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 your purchasing dollar by not buying products which make us ill.
Fresh Organic Produce
- We try to buy organic alternatives to fresh produce which have high chemical residuals. These 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.
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 show 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 health!