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August 1, 2010 / agrove19

Read It Before You Eat It

This concept is pretty simple. Know what you are eating.

One of the biggest changes I have made to my eating is that I now read all labels and ingredients before I buy something or I consume food. It has literally been an eye opening experience. I had no idea how many unnecessary chemicals I was eating in the name of preservation or taste enhancement. Also, I did not realize the toll these things can take on your health. In many cases, people think they are eating healthy and still continue to have ailments or just plain feel bad. However, what they do not realize is that they are actually eating a lot of foods that are really not good for you.

First, let’s see some common mistakes in label reading:

I have been on several different food plans and diets in my days and I have been reading labels for years. However, I only paid attention to the wrong parts and ignored the must reads.

For example, when trying to cut calories, I only paid attention to this:

Under two hundred calories? Good deal. That’s all I need to know, right? Wrong. I always thought that as long as I ate under a certain daily amount of calories, that it did not matter what I ate. In fact, some national diet programs tout that same mantra. However, using this method, many people (myself included) continue to eat bad foods (smaller quantities of course) and neglect to eat the right foods and this leads to nutritional deficiencies.

A couple of times, I started an eating program where the only part of the label I read was:

Carbs=Bad and as long as you stay away from carbs and sugar, you are good to go. Believe it or not, I actually tried one of these plans years ago. No breads, ok I get it. No bananas, no strawberries, no watermelon…say what? Also, diets like this tend to be reaally high in fat and not the good kind. Eat as much bacon as you want but don’t you dare touch a strawberry! Again, eating like this can be dangerous and in the end, you feel bad because your body is not getting what it needs.

So after doing a lot of research, I have started a new way of eating. Now, notice I do not say diet because really this isn’t a diet. It is eating the way it is supposed to be, eating for enrichment. Now when I do my shopping this is the part of the label I pay attention to:

The first thing I check out on products in my grocery store of choice is the ingredients label. If there is something I cannot read or understand, then I stay away. It is so easy and pretty clear cut. Now, not all preservatives are cancer causing carcinogens (look for another post on that) but it can be safe to say that loading your body with chemicals on a daily basis is never a good idea. Food dyes should also be avoided. It is pretty simple, if I want to eat peas, I want to eat peas not Yellow 5, Green 5 and whatever others preservatives and flavor enhancements have been added.

I also like shopping this way because it forces me to really look at everything I am eating. I am getting the nutrients my body needs? I am getting enough vitamins? Remember, the ingredients are listed so that the first ingredient makes up the majority of the product. Make sure it is a good one.

Now, this is very easy but you have to be careful. When we think of preservative laden foods, when tend to think of the little cakes that are supposed to outlast a nuclear holocaust. We sometimes fail to realize that they can be lurking almost anywhere and in anything. For example, I have been making fruit smoothies. Somebody recommended I look at frozen fruit. Fresh is best but frozen is always next best, right? Eh, maybe. I picked up a box of frozen strawberries and whew, first and only ingredient- strawberries (is anyone else shocked that this is actually a question that must be asked?). So I proceeded to move on. Peaches. Yum. I love peaches. I look at the ingredients list and drum roll please… there were at least five or six foreign ingredients (preservatives and color enhancements mostly). I quickly put them back and made a mental note. Now this might seem extreme but if you are going to feed your body good stuff, you might as well just feed it the good stuff.

Overall, it is important to read the entire label to make sure you are getting everything you need. Don’t worry, it is not as time consuming as you might think. Once you have a few basic skills down, it takes seconds.

So the moral of the story is, read it before you eat it. You may be surprised what you find.

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2 Comments

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  1. Heidi / Aug 2 2010 12:59 am

    Great post. Mike was very unexpectedly diagnosed with kidney disease recently. Because of this, he has to be on a low-sodium and low-protein diet. I am trying to mostly eat the same way he has to. I am shocked now that I’ve started reading labels at how much sodium and junk is in what we eat!

    The first time I grocery shopped for our new healthier foods, it took forever to read all the labels. Now I kind of know what’s good and what’s bad so it goes faster. I was actually just telling Mike I wanted to blog about how bad restaurant food is and how it drives me crazy that restaurants can’t seem to make food that isn’t loaded down with 3 days worth of sodium!

    Wow. That was long and rant-ish. Sorry! I enjoyed your post 🙂

    • agrove19 / Aug 2 2010 3:28 am

      Thanks Heidi! I love comments! I definitely enjoy getting input and ideas. You are so correct about sodium! I am going to do a post on that very soon. I am reading a book about how salt changed human history and it is crazy. Until fairly recently, salt was a treasured commodity, not an everyday ingredient. I also agree with you on restaurant food. It is surprising how even the “healthy” options are usually not good for you. I think they are more interested in getting the food to taste artificially good (and addictive) than providing healthy options. Sodium is also tricky because it is in everything. Even the sweet stuff! The more processed, the more sodium. That is why I have another issue with so called “healthy” frozen foods that contain more sodium than you would need in a week!

      On another note, I am so sorry to hear about Mike. I have been doing a lot of research about food and supplements lately so if I find anything related to kidney disease I will let you know.

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