You have decided to improve your diet and you head to the supermarket to stock up on healthy foods. You have heard that oats is good for breakfast, so you walk over to the aisle only to find 5 if not 10 different varieties of oats.
There are ones which take only 2 minutes to cook, there are fruit flavoured, then there are those packed in sachets, etc etc. All the choice can be overwhelming. You will be tempted with flavours and time saving techniques. It is time to decide, which one should you pick?!
You need to focus on why you have come looking for oats – to be healthy. With that as the primary objective, go over the ingredients list of the ones you find interesting/ appetising/ within budget. For something as simple as oats, the only thing listed should be 100% oats. The moment you see ‘sugar’ or ‘natural flavourings’ or ‘stabilisers’ or ‘preservatives’, you should know that this food has been tempered with chemicals. Keep it back, you don’t need it.
This was a simple example.
In practice, your general rule of thumb should be to
- avoid any and all chemicals,
- consume MINIMUM trans fat/ saturated fat and cholesterol; and
- look for MAXIMUM protein and fibre.
Fancy labels – ‘Fat free’, ‘No Sugar added’, ‘Sugar free’, ‘Multigrain’, ‘Made with Real Fruit’, ‘Cholesterol Free’ – are all created by smart marketeers who want to take advantage of consumer’s insecurities. There is an interesting slide show about misleading labels on health. com.
To give you a few examples of misleading claims:
A fat free product might have extra sugar added which will negate the calorie reduction which results from making it ‘fat free’. You should compare the nutrition label for TOTAL CALORIES with the non ‘fat free’ version.
Sugar free might have starch or artificial sugars added which will again raise the calorie count or lead to annoying side effects. *A word of Caution* Sometimes these sugars are called ‘natural sugars’ as they are derived from plants like corn, berries, etc. But this innocent label is hiding the fact that these plants are treated with harsh chemicals for extracting the sugar components. As a result the chemical residues in the sugar have many questionable side effects. Diarrhoea, bloating, nausea are the more commonly reported ones.
If you are trying to lose weight, then upsetting your gut in having to deal with these chemically derived ‘food’ stuffs is counter intuitive. Every once in a while have that full fat, full sugar REAL ice cream or candy instead of consuming their substitutes. Remember portions and mindful eating! Read more about portion control from a previous post. The substitutes will always leave you craving the real thing and or do more harm than good.
COMPARING TWO ITEMS
An important thing to keep in mind when comparing labels of two products is to check their serving size. This can be deceptive and annoying when one item serving is 40 gms and other is 45 gms! You cannot start normalising all nutrition label values! Compare the items in (b) and (c) above and make sure to avoid all chemicals masquerading as food items!
Another great trick is to see the rank of the chemicals in order of listing. Take the one which have them listed lower in the ingredients list. Listing is done in the order of quantity from high to low.
If you find that all variants of a product have either artificial sweeteners, or are high in trans fat and or sugars. Then just ditch the item – it is too processed to be consumed on a daily basis. This will clean up your food cupboard in no time!
Without being too extreme though, in most cases, you would have to use your judgement. But at least now you will take an informed decision rather than just going by the fancy labels.
Eat REAL FOOD that your bodily enzymes are meant to process naturally and efficiently.