Deciphering Food Labels: No Degree Required

Reading a food ingredients label - personal training at Transformation in Raleigh

As we walk down the aisles of the grocery store today we are bombarded with brightly colored packages that advertise thirty percent less fat, no high fructose corn syrup and zero grams of trans fat. Nowadays even Girl Scout cookies advertise zero grams of trans fat. That makes them healthy, right? WRONG! There are certain buzz words that the media has conditioned the average consumer to try to avoid, such as high fructose syrup, trans fat, saturated fat and MSG. But not having these additives in your foods doesn’t necessarily make them healthy. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in nutrition to truly eat healthy.

Here are a few quick and simple tips to help you decide what to buy:

  1. Don’t get caught up with the bright advertisements on the front of the package. Manufacturers have a way of highlighting the positive aspects of their product and hiding the negative things when designing their packaging. Instead of focusing on the front of the package, turn it over and look at the list of ingredients and nutrition information.
  2. When looking at the list of ingredients you don’t need to be an expert. If you see a list of ingredients that is longer than your weekly grocery list, it’s probably best to put it back on the shelf. Next, actually read the list of ingredients. If there are more than a couple of ingredients that you do not recognize and can’t pronounce, put it back and step away!
  3. It is also important to look at the nutrition information. The top half of the chart lists calories, fat, sodium and other things you generally want to see low percentages of. The bottom half of the chart lists fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals; things you want to see a lot of.

These are just a few guidelines to help with your next trip to the grocery store. In my next post I will go over specific additives to avoid and why.

Eat Whole Foods in Their Natural State

Whole Foods

Whole Foods are foods that are in their God-created, natural, unprocessed state. According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘Whole Food’ has been known to describe any food that offers a complete balance in nutritional value while in its natural state.” As Jack LaLanne says, “If God didn’t make it, don’t eat it.” That is great advice from the 94 year-old king of fitness. The body knows how to metabolize and use the whole foods made from our Creator. It has no clue how to use the chemicals and artificial derivatives in processed foods. When we eat those kinds of processed foods, we get our bodies into trouble.

Raw fruits and vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense and common whole foods. Fresh Juicing using Juicers or simply eating raw fruits and vegetables are the best ways to get your true daily value of vitamins and minerals. Some other whole foods are legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, meats, and grains like rice, barley and oats. And, no, cereal is not considered a whole food…it is made from processed grains. Also, most dairy products are processed (pasteurized and homogenized), which makes them damaging to most people who consume them regularly.

“If God didn’t make it, don’t eat it!”
– Jack LaLanne

Most processed foods have additives like refined sugar, dairy, salt, soy, corn, MSG, and other preservatives. These additives are included in synthetic, unnatural states, and so may cause damage to the systems of your body. Beware of the marketing and sales ploys behind food companies’ products that say ‘All-Natural,’ or ‘Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals’. Remember, they also consider the brain toxin MSG (among others), natural. Also, if the food were truly in its whole, natural state, it wouldn’t need to be fortified with anything or packaged.

The results of eating a whole food based diet often reduces body fat, gives you more energy, better focus, and better overall health. Whereas, processed foods often make our bodies fat, sluggish, unhealthy, and/or toxic. The choice is yours. Live well.

Pesticides in Produce – Buying Conventional or Organic?

Dirty & Clean Foods List

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health, produces a Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It is based on the results of nearly 51,000 pesticide tests on food crops by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2000 and 2005. The results of their data takes into consideration the way in which consumers wash, peel and prepare produce prior to consumption.

Organic fruits and vegetables by definition are grown without the use of pesticides. But some find that the expense of buying organic is simply too much. Below is a list of 12 “dirty” foods followed by a list of 12 “clean” foods. These  two lists are for your information and are presented here to reiterate their importance. We, here at Transformation LLC, believe it is up to each person to weigh the costs of buying organic versus buying conventionally grown produce. Keep in mind, however, that research shows that the effects of pesticides on the body can definitely lead to serious health problems.

The EWG states that “the best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.”

12 Foods You Should ALWAYS Buy Organic

Of the 43 different fruit and vegetable categories in the Guide to Pesticides, the following twelve foods had the highest pesticide load when conventionally grown. For this reason, they are the least safe to consume:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

12 Foods that You Don’t Have to Buy Organic

Of the 43 different fruit and vegetable categories in the Guide to Pesticides, the following twelve foods had the lowest pesticide load when conventionally grown. Consequently, they are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume:

  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage
  • Banana
  • Kiwi
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocado
  • Onion