Wednesday, January 4, 2012
31 Days Challenge- Day 5: Read Labels
One way to improve your children's diet is to pay more attention to food labels.
Due to issues with food allergies/ sensitivity issues, I'm a fairly avid label reader. And yet, there are still times when I'm surprised. Sometimes I make assumptions about something that I've always bought, or I buy something in haste.
Several years ago, I had a major issue with hives. I had huge hives all over my body, all the time. When I was talking to a natural health practitioner, one of the things he said was to "Cut out all corn syrup." I responded, "I don't really eat anything with corn syrup," to which he said, "How about ketchup?"
Hmm... I'd never thought about it- It turns out that regular ketchup is almost entirely high fructose corn syrup. (I now buy Simply Heinz, Heinz Organic, or Trader Joes which use sugar instead.)
Since that time, I've had multiple label reading "surprises." I was looking at the label for Worcestershire sauce to see if it had soy in it and was similarly surprised to discover that, at least the kind I had purchased, was also almost entirely corn syrup.
Although we have now cut out cereal in the morning, for a long time, my kids ate cereal almost every morning. I prided myself on the fact that I didn't buy "sugar cereal," only to discover that Lucky Charms had less sugar than some of the cereals I had been buying!
Last week I was at my mom's house. She asked my father to buy beef broth. He bought two different organic broths because he wasn't sure which kind she wanted. My mom usually bought Swanson, but since he bought two different kinds, she looked at the labels and the differences were shocking. There were nearly twice as many ingredients in the Swanson broth, never a good sign. It had added sugar, and there were many ingredients of the "non-pronounceable" variety. The store brand had beef, water, spices and vegetables- that's it. Needless to say, the Swanson broth was sent back to the store!
I once bough my store's organic "store brand," beef broth. I made one of my favorites recipes for Sausage Minestrone but for some reason that night it tasted awful. I looked at the broth and discovered that it wasn't beef broth at all. It was "beef flavored," broth and despite the "organic" label, I didn't even recognize what was in it (but there certainly wasn't any beef!)
So, here's your challenge.
Pick several items from your pantry or fridge and take a good look at the labels. Ignore what they tell you, such as "low fat," "low sodium," "whole grain," etc. Instead, look first at the ingredient list. Are there a LOT of ingredients? Can you recognize everything listed? Does it list mostly "real food," or are there a lot of additives/ ingredients that you can't define? Is there anything that surprises you? Are there ingredients that you'd like to know more about?
For example, I used to buy Polaner All-Fruit jelly. However, now it's "All Fruit, Plus Fiber." They add fiber by adding maltodextrin. I've done a little research on maltodextrin and can't really speak yet to it's health benefits or potential detriments, but because it's a manufactured and not a "real," food, I've decided to ditch Polaner and buy Smuckers all-fruit instead- since it really is "all fruit."
What you do or do not want to consume or feed to your kids is up to you, and is likely to change over time. Due to my gestational diabetes, I am paying way more attention to the carbohydrates, fiber, and protein numbers than I ever had (I always paid way more attention to ingredients than "numbers.")
We all have to make our own decisions, but the point is that the more informed we are, the better choices we will make, and the better eaters our kids will be. If we read labels (and not just the parts the manufacturer wants us to) we are empowered, informed and aware.
So, did you find any surprises? Maybe you even found some good discoveries... Please share in the comments!