All of us have been known to overindulge. All of us have wanted to make a change in our diet. Let’s say the healthy change starts today. Picture it now: You are walking down the aisle of the grocery store with a new grocery list in hand full of nutritious choices. But are they really good choices? Food labels and advertisements on packaging can be deceiving. It is vital as consumers to be savvy to food label misconceptions.
Just because the front of a package may show a healthy looking image, does not mean that the nutritional value is of worth. Brandy Baxter, RD, LN at Meritus Medical Center says, “Food labels can be deceiving because they may advertise a product as ‘low fat’or ‘trans fat free’ but these claims don’t always mean healthy. That item that is ‘low fat’ may be full of sugar or sodium. A person has to take into account the entire food label rather than relying on the manufacturer’s claims.”
When reading a food label, it is important to understand the serving size. The serving size is what the calories and other nutritional facts are based upon and can be much smaller or larger than what an individual will actually consume.
Next, the calories are important to read and understand. A good rule of thumb is limiting the nutrients from fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. A higher percentage of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron are beneficial for health.
Finally, the footnote of the nutritional label can be useful because it informs the consumer if of the percentages are based on a standard 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. Remember that each individual is different, so personalize the percentages on the label to cater to specific caloric intake. Consider 2,000 calories per day as a good point of reference.
PBS has revealed a few “healthy” choices that are not so wholesome:
· Breakfast cereal-By the time cereal is fully processed and in the cardboard box, it has been stripped of its natural vitamins and fiber. Often, the manufacturer will add some sort of fiber to the cereal.
· Light yogurt-When sugar is taken out of the yogurt to make it “light” the sugar is often replaced with artificial sweetener which is actually more damaging to our health. Instead of light yogurt, try plain yogurt and add fresh fruit. Greek yogurt is another excellent choice.
· Protein bars- Soy protein is one of the main ingredients in protein bars. Soy protein is made from soy beans. By the time the soy beans have been made into soy protein, a lot of the nutritious value has been lost (other than a big dose of protein.)
· Vitaminwater- Vitaminwater is packed with sugar! On average, the beverage delivers 32 grams of sugar to your body. Plus, most of the nutritional benefits this drink claims are already part of our everyday diet. For example, vitamins B1, B3 and D are in many of the foods we already eat.
All of this information can seem discouraging. After realizing how much processed, sugary, fatty food is out there, what can we eat?
Baxter says, “Fruits and vegetables are hands down the healthiest food choices. Fresh produce is best, but frozen can be an excellent alternative if you're worried about the cost or about the products going bad quickly. Be sure to choose frozen items without sauces or butter added. Fruits and vegetables have a multitude of health benefits. They provide vitamins and minerals to help your body work better. They also have plant sterols and stanols that lower cholesterol. The fiber in these products helps keep you full and your digestive tract regular,” she continue.
The MayoClinic has presented some delicious options to incorporate into healthy diets:
· Almonds- Great for the heart, almonds contain monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat that has been proven to lower blood cholesterol levels.
· Apples-There is soluble fiber present in apples which can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels and keep blood vessels healthy.
· Blueberries- These are proven to improve short term memory and support a healthy aging process.
· Salmon- This fish contains omega-3 fatty acid which makes blood less likely to form clots and can reduce the risk of stroke. Salmon is also a great source of protein!