This month’s topic is all about reading and understanding food labels. I am actually going to cover this subject over the next few months just because it is such an important one with a lot of information to cover.
This will be the breakdown;
August – The basics.
September – Dissecting the actual food label and ingredient list.
October – Practical application etc
Here are the basics……
1. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, beginning with the ingredient that weighs the most and ending with the ingredient that weighs the least. The first three are usually the product’s main ingredients.
2.Pick food that contains ingredients that you recognize. If you don’t know what it is or can’t pronounce it, just don’t buy it. The very least google it to find out what it is before you buy it. (You will be surprised to find out there is usually a healthier option in a similar product)
3.Beware of “low fat” food it is often loaded with sugar.
4. Products are often labeled as being free on an ingredient that was never in it in the first place. Such as “cholesterol free”. Cholesterol is found only in animal based foods but is often used on products that never contained cholesterol. Also remember cholesterol free does not mean fat free.
5. It is illegal in Canada to use hormones/steroids in raising chicken and has been since the 1960s. Antibiotics are still being used but usually in a preventative manner. Suppliers label their chicken as hormone free as a sales ploy. (Check the country you live in for its standards)
6. “No added sugar” does not mean sugar free. The natural sugars are still present and could be in high amounts.
7. Organic food has to be at least 95% organic to be labeled organic and/or have the Canadian organic label. Anything less than that may be labeled “containing organic ingredients”.
8. Vitamins and minerals varely widely in the extent they are absorbed and utilized. There are many factors that influence this and just because a package is labeled with a vitamin or mineral it does not mean your body will be able to utilize it. Whole, fresh, local food is usually the best source for these.
9. The percentages on food labels for trans fat, total fat, carbohydrates and saturated fat are based on an adult diet of 2000 calories per day. A child’s needs would be different depending on how many calories they should be eating daily based on their age.
10. What to avoid on a food label…… sugar (unless it is a treat because sugar is in everything), artificial sweeteners, processed grains, partially hydrogenated oils, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil. (As a general rule)
Please let me know if I left anything out that you would like to know more about.
These are good resources for food labels including recent changes and some interactive quizzes to test your knowledge as well.