Food Labeling Misconceptions

When it comes to food we all want to eat healthier, but there are so many things to watch out for when purchasing food items for your home.  Label reading can become quite confusing with different information on food packages, often leaving us misinformed and searching the internet or other sources for answers.  I am going to tackle a few common food label statements below to hopefully clear up that confusion when comparing labels at the supermarket.  

Low Fat:  Wahoo! This statement makes our eyes light up because those looking for products low in fat typically want to shed a few of those extra pounds.  However, interestingly enough, when fat is reduced within a food, it is typically made up for by adding sugar back into it.  This will end up leading to the opposite effect you originally intended for.  Remember that fats are an essential part of our diets, just focus on the healthy ones.  A variety of oils, avocados, nuts and seeds are healthy fats to consume within your diet.

Gluten Free: Yes some people do in fact need to eliminate gluten from their diets for health reasons but this has become a ridiculous craze! Everyone needs to educate themselves about what they are eating and understand what their bodies can and cannot tolerate.  Gluten free means exactly what it says.  The product contains no gluten.  This does not serve as an indication that the food is healthy.  Always read the labels to see what else is inside. For example, a box of mac and cheese that is gluten free isn’t going to be the best meal choice.

No Sugar: This usually means that artificial sweeteners are substituted into the product.  Our bodies become tricked into believing we are consuming sugar, leading us to crave more later.  Try to reduce the amount of refined sugar within your diet and implement the use of natural sugars like honey, agave, or maple syrup.

Low Calorie: We all need to consume calories in our day, especially those that are quite physically active.  Consuming less calories can lead to feeling slow, weak, and tired.  Make healthier choices on the calories you consume and forget about those low calorie options.

Carb Free:  The human body requires carbs, fats, and proteins to function properly and build and repair muscle tissue.  By neglecting carbs, like when we use those no sugar items, we crave more later on.  Eating a balanced diet with carbs, proteins, and fats is essential.  Complex carbs can help balance our blood sugar levels throughout the day, which is wiser than eliminating them altogether.

A few pieces of advice when tackling the supermarket on your next visit:

  1. Look at the ingredients list.  I look for a shorter list of ingredients and contents that I know and can pronounce.  The more ingredients usually means the more processed the product is and typically contents that we wouldn't be familiar with.  Focus on the ingredients more than the nutrition facts.  For example, a natural nut butter may be high in fat but the ingredients list may be quite short. Nuts contain healthy fats and can be consumed in moderate amounts. 
  2. Eat foods with no labels.  Eat whole foods and spend most of your time shopping in the produce section.  These foods are natural and in their freshest states so let’s take advantage and reap the benefits.  
  3. Educate yourself.  Pay attention to food labels and know what to look out for.  Do your homework on items you are interested in and don’t get fooled by the packaging or label jargon.  Always remember to take the extra minute to ensure you are fuelling your bodies with the best food choices. 

Be fierce. Be strong. Be vibrant.