In today’s modern world we’ve never had more options when it comes to food. There’s so many vegan, gluten free, dairy free, additive free options that eating healthy should be easy right? Sadly, more choice brings more decisions and that makes it easier to be confused by sneaky marketing tricks.
We’ve been hearing this question a lot from Balance members lately... How do I tell if a food is really healthy or not? So… let’s see if we can simplify your choices shall we?
1. Marketing Claims:
Marketing claims are the number 1 thing we should give zero attention to. Sure, they might grab your attention to begin with, but after you pick up the product please ignore any claim and look further into the product.
2. DI Panels:
Don’t waste your life on Di panels… A more pointless exercise there is not… “oh look this is only 10% of my daily sodium RDA”.. or “ wow, this food is only 17% my total daily intake”.. Most people struggle to calculate basic daily calories, let alone percentages of kilojoule intakes. Simplifying the counting issue is the major reason why weight watchers ‘point system’ became so popular.
When it comes to DI panels all the stats are done on the standard 70kg guy and 8700 kJ per day diet. So, not only are they hard to calculate, but they mean very little for you personally. In other words, just ignore them.
3. Traffic Lights:
Don’t waste your life on Traffic Light systems. We call these DIS-EMPOWERMENT systems. Don’t let somebody tell you if a food is good. You need to start making these decisions yourself. Nuts are red, cheese is red, olive oil is RED, while white bread options can be green if they get their ‘sodium’ under a set limit
4. Heart Ticks:
Take a load off and forget about heart smart TICK ratings.
This is a paid for service and if you can get your sodium, saturated fat (which we know isn’t the devil anymore) and energy right you can get the tick. The quality of the ingredients has NOTHING to do with the tick!! If your product is highly refined, nutrient deficient, GMO grown, and filled with preservatives, additives and a million other nasties it can still get the tick!
The only thing the tick should alert you to is to make sure you analyse the product extra carefully, as there is a good chance you’ll find a low quality ingredients hidden behind low salt, low fat and low energy front.
Most people obsess about the energy, the fat, the sodium etc. They focus only on the quantity.
But what about the quality? Is refined GMO white rice going to have the same effect on your body as whole grain organic brown rice? Of course not. Per 100g they may have a similar energy, so their quantity is similar, but quality wise they are worlds apart.
Will broccoli that was grown 2 years, ago, pumped full of fertiliser to grow fast so its nutrient deficient, picked early, frozen and then heated in a microwave that removes 90% of its cancer preventing phytonutrients nourish your body the same as an organic broccoli picked 2 days ago from a farm 30km away and lightly steamed? Of course not.
When selecting food, we must look at both the quality AND the quantity of a food. But we must start with the QUALITY.
1. The Ingredient List
Lets compare 2 famous snacks!
Now I can’t tell you the name of product 1, but product 2 is Ashy’s Chocolate Choc Chip Clean Treats.
Can you see the massive difference in quality?
1 food depletes your body of valuable vitamin and mineral stores. It puts stress on your digestive system and provides almost nothing other than energy. The other nourishes your body.
Imagine the difference in health of someone who choose to eat snack 1 every day for 20 years or snack 2. The difference is almost incomparable even though the energy is similar.
ALWAYS START WITH THE INGREDIENT LIST... NOT YET CONVINCED? HERE'S A FEW MORE REASONS WHY...
Because each ingredient MUST be listed in order of highest to lowest, within 5 seconds of reading an ingredients list you know the quality of the main ingredients and you can also see how many ingredients, fillers, additives, flavours etc are added.
But remember, because ingredient lists must be in order of highest to lowest, companies trying to hide things like sugar will use alternate names to trick consumers.
On a ingredients list, sugar can also be called:
Sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses, glucose, brown sugar, honey, lactose, malt, maltodextrin, fructose.
Many times they will use 3 or 4 of these so people only looking for the word SUGAR don’t see it, or only see it as the 5th ingredient and think, that’s ok its not the main ingredient, then its ok…
Even more sneakily they will then add some artificial sweetners and highly refined carbs that are basically sugar to further put you off the scent.
2. The Nutrition Panel
Here are 7 key areas to look at within your nutrition panel:
- Total energy (per 100 and per serving. Check to see if the serving is ‘realistic)
- Total Carbs
- Total Fat
- Trans fat
- Omega 6 fat
- Total Protein
- Total Fibre
A common thing I find with clients when it comes to nutrition labels is everyone seems to have one set area they focus on. It is almost like a superstition
- The ‘diet product’ lady only cares about fat content
- The new ‘sugar-fad’ people, analyse the sugar to total carbohydrate ratio, are on the lookout for any “dangerous fructose” and have rules like I don’t have over 5 g of sugars at any meal…
- Some people count sodium content… IE nothing over 200mg of sodium
- The calorie counters only care about energy… I don’t want over 150 calories per snack, but if its under 150 they couldn’t care what is actually in the food…
- The stereo typical body builder only cares about the protein grams and talks about macros all the time. But, by macros they really only mean protein.
By focusing on one area, we can make poor choices for our health because we aren’t looking at the total picture. We’re also far more likely to be fooled by clever marketing techniques.
We definitely want to know how much energy we are consuming. (remember per 100g or per serve isn’t as important as ‘how much am I consuming of this’..
The SERVING size a company is promoting to you rarely has to do with the ACTUAL serving size.
It is the size at which their numbers look the best. And for most crap foods, their “serving” size is FAR smaller than what we actually consume.
So always look at per 100g and always know how much of the food you are consuming!
We used to run tests at the schools we would teach at and most children would pour around 4-5 servings of corn flakes or cocoa pops but measure out 1-2 servings max of wheat bix…
So even though the were having 1 bowl of corn flakes for breakfast, they were having 5 servings. It’s a very sneaky trick manufacturers use to make their ‘per serving’ amount look good to customers or to meet criteria to get heart smart ticks… ;)
Now – as we mentioned, if you want to look at the quality of your food (and hormonal effects) it is great to know the macro breakdown of the portion/serve you will eat IE if this is a high carb, fat or protein food.
So that is why the carbs fat and protein are very important to know!! If we are making a meal at home, we can add them all up and figure out the total of our meal…
A huge benefit to be gained from reading nutrition panels is in learning how to make BETTER CHOICES.
Nutrition is about ENJOYMENT. There is zero point eating foods you don’t like for 6 weeks to lose 3 kg,and then go back to your previous diet and put it all back on. For achieve optimal health you need to making consistently healthy nutrition choices and that’s much easier when you ENJOY the food.
So, start using your nutrition panel and ingredients list to COMPARE items
IE lean mince vs regular mince - I save 100 cals per 100g just by choosing the lean mince.. It is an easy choice.
Regular cheese vs 50% less fat cheese - one has 400 cals per 100g and lots of fat, the other has 200cals per 100 and is mostly protein!! Easy choice to help me feel full and repair my muscles while consuming less calories.
Remember – small consistent changes add up, and knowing more about your numbers and what you put in your mouth is essential.. Soooo, that’s about it..
Hopefully today we have quickly gone through a few key things about nutrition labels that you haven’t heard before. I hope it will make a benefit to your life and also help you to avoid over analysing the stuff that won’t help much..
Please remember, if you’re not sure just post on the forum so we can help explain the pros and cons of any product you’re looking at!