From Keto to Paleo to Whole30 and back to Keto, we’ve seen quite a few diet trends rise and fall (or at least plateau) in popularity over the last few years. With the overwhelming accumulation of information out there, it’s hard to know what may be best for you and your lifestyle. As we move into the new decade, we invite you to let go of the chaos and confusion and remember one simple trick: read your ingredient labels.
That’s right. Instead of focusing on an intense lifestyle change, depleting your body of necessary nutrients, or restricting certain food groups, we simply encourage you to understand what you are consuming. We believe knowledge is power, and having the confidence in what you’re putting into your body will make the biggest difference over time. As tempting as it may be, that new diet is just that – a new diet. Without understanding why you are eating what you’re eating, you may never truly reach your goals and improve your health. Luckily there’s an easy fix and we are here to help. All you have to do is read your labels.
As you make your way through the grocery store, you are bound to see products that read, “Low Fat! – 0g Sugar! – All Natural!” along the way. And when it comes to chocolate chip cookies or your favorite salty chips, it can all be incredibly tempting and exciting. The food industry has changed the way we look at beneficial and non-beneficial foods through strategic propaganda and marketing. We all know greasy, cheesy, and salty chips are not a healthy choice, but what about naturally flavored veggie chips? Sugar-free cookies? What about gluten-free cinnamon rolls? The answer isn’t always clear but if you remember our quick tip and read the label, you will have a much better understanding and make the best choice for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.
When it comes to the nutrition panel, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fats are usually first to our attention. While those are all useful values to understand and be aware of, calories and macronutrients are not the end-all-be-all of true health. We believe the greatest guide is the ingredient list. What is this food product really made of? Do these veggie chips contain actual vegetables or vegetable flavoring? These are questions that can easily be answered by looking at the ingredient list.
For example, we recently came across a gluten-free cookie mix that really caught our attention. The packaging was light, the design was clean, and the words “High in Protein” and “Gluten Free” were bold along the front.
Here is the ingredient list: Certified Gluten-Free Oats, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Chocolate Chips (Sugar/Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin [an Emulsifier], Vanilla Extract), M&M Milk Chocolate (Milk Chocolate [Sugar, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Cocoa Butter, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavor], Sugar, Cornstarch, Less than 1%: Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring [Includes, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2], Gum Acacia), M&M Peanut Butter (Milk Chocolate [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Milkfat, Lactose, Peanuts, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavors], Peanut Butter [Partially Defatted Peanuts], Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Less than 2%: Cornstarch, Dextrose, Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Salt, Gum Acacia, Coloring [Includes, Blue 1 Lake, Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake], Dextrin, Propyl Gallate [to Maintain Freshness]), Baking Soda, Vanilla Flavor (Dextrose, Natural Flavor), Salt.
Where to begin? While yes, this product may be gluten free and slightly higher in protein, but at what cost? You may be avoiding gluten, which is crucial for some, but you are also consuming corn syrup, food dyes, artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils.
Knowing what to look out for can be tricky. We will link a few resources below to help familiarize you with certain ingredients to try and limit. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t picture (visualize) or pronounce the ingredient, chances are your body won’t recognize it, either. There are a few exceptions as some products may list Vitamins in their chemical name, such as Pyridoxamine, which is actually just Vitamin B6 and a quick Google search can clear that up for you.
Beyond the walls of fresh vegetables and sweet fruits are isles of emerging snack brands and innovative new food products. The only way to make an educated and healthy decision is to be aware and know what “healthy” truly means. Like they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and we would like to believe that to be true with food, too.