In a perfect world, we only ever shop at farmers markets or grow our own food, right? If you need to buy food in packets for your pantry stock up though – don’t we all? – a simple discipline will keep your shopping basket in check: Read the Ingredient List. There’s some scary stuff going into packet food, that we can choose to avoid. If enough of us choose to avoid processed, packet food, it will force companies to either go away or make better stuff with real ingredients – how amazingly powerful are we as a collective!? People won’t make what people don’t buy.
Many health professionals and weightloss companies and products, have focused on the nutritional panel for years. This paints far from the whole picture. I’d prefer to eat a little of something high in fat if it’s healthy fat, than I would a low fat product with 10 additives I didn’t recognise. Look at the ingredient list, and if you don’t know what something is, your body won’t either. It’s that simple. This goes equally for numbers as for words. Yes, you may be able to read ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ or ‘hydrolyzed wheat protein’ but do you really know what they mean? They’re actually code for trans fat & msg. Don’t be disheartened. You will learn this stuff over time. It’s taken me 3 years of geek-out research and reading to wrap my head around it all, so give yourself a break and choose a little something to focus on each week instead of feeling like everything you’ve done in the past is wrong and you’re doomed – you’re not! Today’s a new day.
It’s time to really start to notice the smell of ‘spin’, like these ‘selling points’ commonly seen on packets:
- baked not fried – if i had a dollar…
- sugar free – doesn’t mean they’re not using horrible chemical sweeteners, added fructose or corn syrup
- fat free – another code for ‘full of artificial crap your body doesn’t understand.’
- no saturated fat (good quality saturated fats like coconut, pasture / grass fed meat & bacon, and organic free range eggs are really good for us as part of a nutritious diet, and polyunsaturated high heat processed seed oils are really bad for us – so, while the latter aren’t “saturated”, I’d pick a good quality saturated fat over a highly processed unsaturated any day!
- cholesterol free – erm, margarine is cholesterol free but it is far, far away from being a real food our bodies recognise.
- organic – sometimes, organic packet products can have a bunch of unhealthy stuff in them too – definitely more dependable but just because the corn syrup is organic, don’t make it healthy!
- made with real fruit – hilarious! love that one. a real ‘clutching at straws’ claim. see below!
- natural flavorings (msg can be classified as a natural flavoring. annoying! )
- no artificial flavours or colours (i saw a product today that had that on the front, and then about 8 additives and 2 hidden msg ingredients ‘yeast extract and hydrolised wheat protein) No thanks!
So what’s a recent example you’ve found, I hear you say? I bring you a popular snack item in the health aisle of all places. Excuse the shameful photography!
So the health benefits stated on the front of this product are:
1. Source of Fiber
2.Made with real fruit
3. All natural colour & flavor
4. Added calcium
The nutritional panel looked pretty good too. You’re the busy lunch box buying Mum, thinking “Fab… Sounds perfect” right? Sadly, oh so wrong!
And here’s the whopper ingredient list…
Fruit (32%) made up of concentrated apple purée, dried apples (containing 220) reconstituted berry juices, wheat starch, maltodextrin from wheat, yoghurt confectionery(7%) made up of sugar, vegetable fat, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, milk solids, yoghurt powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), sugar, isomalt, whey protein, citric acid, coconut (containing 220)seaweed extract, humectant (422), Acidity regulators (330, 296), vegetable oil, natural flavour, natural colour (120), vegetable extracts, glazing agents (553b, 904)
As busy busy people we often judge or buy based on the quick marketing spiels on the front label, not the details on the back. The back is too hard to understand & navigate, so we just quickly read the “source of fibre” and “natural flavour” and think: Great, in the basket it goes! Here’s what the ingredient list tells us though…
1. Preservative 220: Derived from coal tar (yummy!); All sulphur drugs are toxic and restricted in use and dangerous for people with bronchial problems, asthma and heart issues. I remember dried apricots gave me asthma when I was growing up – well, there’s the answer to that mystery! A lot of desiccated coconut brands have 220 in them also, as does a lot of wine… bummer!
2. Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil: The process of hydrogenation of oils makes them less likely to go rancid AND creates TRANS FATS. Run a mile from the word hydrogenate.
3. Humectant 422: Code for Glycerol and formed as a by-product in soap manufacture. Don’t know about you, but I prefer to use soap in my shower, not my food.
4. Acidity Regulator 296: Commercial malic acid: Infants and young children should avoid it, as warned in the journal of orthomolecular medicine. Found in potato snacks, confectionery, ready made pasta sauces, frozen vegetables, tinned tomatoes most commonly. yikes!
5. Maltodextrin. A highly processed starch… wheat in this case. Possibly GM, given when something is highly processed and bears no physical difference to non GM, it doesn’t need to be labelled thus.
6. 120. Cochineal colouring. Derived from insects and treated with amonia, this colouring can bring on anaphylaxis, hives, asmtha – prohibited in infant foods.
So, there are just 6 of the ingredients spelt out – The only way we can put an end to all these additives is by simply not choosing these products. There are definitely better options. Be ruthless with your ingredient list and get yourself a copy of the full version of Chemical Maze
for your phone!
Let’s end this post with a laugh, shall we? The most processed looking food I could find in 30 seconds online. Hilarious!
Don’t be disheartened by all the numbers and if you think I’ve never put a foot wrong? I was a pop tart popping teen who microwaved eggs – we’ve all got a past! 😉
Real Food, Happy Bodies.