Do you feel overwhelmed at the grocery store? Sometimes we go in completely armed and ready with our list to shop, and then suddenly, we feel completely confused because of the marketing and food labels. Staring at the shelves and reading the claims that the boxes make can make anybody feel crazy! Do you wonder what products you can really trust and what it means when they say: “all natural”, “whole grains”, or “organic”?
I think so many of us struggle with this especially today with the overwhelming amount of products to choose from. One of my favorite things to do is to take friends, family and clients to the grocery store and help them realize all of the ways healthy shopping can be fun and rewarding. Once you tackle the store a few times and you know what you need to look for, it becomes super easy to stay away from the products that are unhealthy.
As part of my Healthy Lifestyle Series that I teach at corporations, I reward an employee with a Gift Card to my favorite local health food store where they can invite 5 co-workers. We basically go on a shopping experience and revamp their grocery list. Below is a video from last week when I took one of my winners from Belk to Healthy Home Market. We had such a blast!!
One of my favorite things to share with friends is “Live foods bring Life to the body.” If there is a label on a food item, it has been processed to some extent. I’m not saying you should never buy a packaged item, that would be nearly impossible in our world. But be cautious and informed as you shop the aisles of the grocery store. Knowledge brings power. Arm yourself with the truth!
Here is a start to understanding what manufactures say and what it ACTUALLY means.
All-Natural: You know what is all-natural? Food that doesn’t come in a box. If it is in a package that needs a label, there is generally a process that happened to get it there. This term was on MANY of the items in my pantry. Officially, all natural means doesn’t contain synthetic or artificial ingredients (flavors, colors, chemical preservatives). With the exception of USDA-approved meat and poultry, there is no organization to verify this manufacturer’s claim.
Real Fruit: This term can actually be used when the amount of fruit in the product is minute, and can even come from the juice concentrate. These products could be all sugar with a teeny tiny amount of actual fruit, or fruit juice.
No Sugar Added: Sugar is hidden in many products under different names such as fructose, dextrose, sucralose, barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, and many more. You will want to look at the grams of sugar to know how much is actually in the product.
No MSG: Actually, the law says they don’t have to list any ingredient that is less than .5g of the ingredient. Usually this means they’ll write 0g of Transfat or 0g of MSG.. but they’re still in there. Many ingredients actually produce MSG in our systems. Ingredients such as Nonfat milk solids, Cheese cultures, Enzymes, Maltodextrin, Enzyme modified parmesan cheese, Torula yeast, Natural flavor, Disodium inosinate, Disodium guanylate.
Healthy: By whose standards is the product healthy? Even if guidelines were set, it doesn’t mean we have the same ideal for the word that regulators do. A product may have 2 grams of fiber, so the manufacture considers it healthy, although it has 50 grams of sugar. Don’t let a label tell you it’s healthy, you decide.
Made with Whole Grains: Manufactures have misused this term horribly! A product with as little as 1% whole grains, is of course, “Made with Whole Grains”.
Free-Range: The definition for this term is way too lose for me to take any claims seriously. To be labeled “Free-Range” the animals merely have to have access to be allowed outside. It doesn’t even specify for how long, or under what conditions.
100% Organic: Completely free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, bioengineering and chemical fertilizers. But be aware of how these animals may have been raised, treated, processed. You are better off looking for a local farmer who can tell you how their animals were raised and processed. You can find a local farm by searching www.eatwild.com.
USDA Organic: At least 95% free of all the above scary-sounding stuff.
GM-Free: Free of genetically-modified ingredients.Made with Organic Ingredients. At least 70% virtuous.
Free-range: Poultry that has “access” to the outside, per the USDA. No guarantee of lower salmonella rates or that they have freedom to roam.
Certified Humane: Raised humanely with ample space, shelter, fresh water and feed with no added hormones or antibiotics from birth through slaughter (that part’s not so humane).
Grass-Fed: Pasture-raised and free-roaming rather than fed at high-grain feed lots with higher pesticide and saturated fat rates. Certified organic beef is more often than not grain fed unless specified as grass-fed.
Cage-Free: All that the name implies, a better guarantee of healthy conditions than the label free-range.
Hormone-Free. Mostly relating to dairy products produced without the synthetic hormone (rBGH), linked by some to health problems.
Tips for reading ingredients labels
1. Ingredients are listed in order of their proportion in the product. This means the first 3 ingredients matter far more than anything else. The top 3 ingredients are what you’re primarily eating.
9. Want to know how to really shop for foods? Download our free Honest Food Guide, the honest reference to foods that has now been downloaded by over 800,000 people. It’s a replacement for the USDA’s highly corrupt and manipulated Food Guide Pyramid, which is little more than a marketing document for the dairy industry and big food corporations.
The Honest Food Guide is an independent, nutritionally-sound reference document that reveals exactly what to eat (and what to avoid) to maximize your health.