I’ve been consciously eating healthier for a few years now, and have found it’s SO much easier than some people (ahem, mom, brother, boyfriend) seem to think it is.
It started with portion control. Every “diets-that-work” book will tell you that when you keep your portions balanced, and eat the right types of food, your weight will balance out and your eating habits will change – making a healthier you.
Balance portions? Right types of food?
I started reading food labels when I started understanding how important the information is! Don’t be fooled by the front of the box with that happy toucan, or the key messages promoting “the best source of” “x”, “y” or “z”.
READ LABELS! It’s super important to know what you’re putting into your body.
Look at the ingredients. They’re listed in order of weight, from most to least. The product will have more of the ingredients at the beginning of the list, and less of the foods at the end. If you’re buying applesauce for example, and sugar is the first ingredient and apples are the second, there’s more sugar in the applesauce than apples.
Using that same applesauce example, don’t be fooled by alternative names of sugars and fats in the ingredients list. Brands will disguise sugar as “glucose-fructose”, or “high fructose corn syrup” and fats as “oils” and “shortening”. They’re typically crystallized or alternative versions of sugars and fats.
Have a look at the Nutrition Guide. You’ll find the amount of calories, 13 core nutrients and the % Daily Value (% DV) of nutrients per serving. Use this guide to compare products. Choosing the one with less sodium and trans and saturated fats are in your best interest.
[Good and bad fats can be confusing sometimes. The government of Manitoba’s website has a healthy living section that helps explain!]
If the front of the box has messaging that seems too good to be true, it likely is. For example:
o “Reduced sodium” and “Low sodium” may sound like the same message, but “reduced” is used when sodium is reduced by 25 percent or more. It neglects to let the consumer know how much total sodium there is per serving.
o “Low sodium” can be used only when the product contains no more than 140 milligrams per serving. Something to look out for! “Sodium free” is your best bet. 5% DV (Daily value) or less sodium is a little. 15% DV or more is a lot!
o “Reduced fat” on a product, means the brand was required to reduce the fat by at least 25 percent. Reduction in fat usually comes with an increase in other not-so-great additives like sugar and sodium.
Not all calories, sodium and fats are bad. Maintaining, or changing habits to live a healthier lifestyle is about all things in moderation. It’s easy to be in control of what’s going into your body, and now you’ve got some tips on how to take the first few simple steps.
The Health Canada website has lots of great information on healthy eating, Canada’s Food Guide and how to make better choices. They also keep Canadians up-to-date with legislation, product recalls, advisories and warnings.
Buying FRESH produce is a major, important change to make! Buy LOCAL! Check out a Farmer’s Market! Some grocery stores and local markets have special sections or signs to identify locally grown/made products.
If you want to start eating healthier, or you’re having trouble finding great replacements, without losing flavor, COMMENT! I’m always looking for healthier alternatives.
JUST FOR FUN – Try this quiz and see how well you can read food labels!–
Enjoy the ride!