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Function and Fitness Blog
Function and Fitness Blog
Coach Jess
5:00 AM

“Organic” “Whole grain” “Sugar Free” “Oh my!”

Today we continue our series on food labelling with a conversation about (dun, dun, dun) marketing. Having worked in marketing for years (okay, yes, it was gaming and home entertainment, not food marketing) I know a little bit about the clever tricks people use to get you to buy their products. It’s the bells and whistles we all fall for. But sadly, when it comes to food packaging, the marketers are using even sneakier tricks - they’re using the words you trust against you.

We’ve all seen these words on our food. But most of them are just lip service. Food labels love to make health claims, but can you believe them? Let’s de-code some of these well-known labels.


“Light”

Usually means processed to reduce fat or calories. What that often translates to is watered down or something else has been added to make it taste good. That “something” is often sugar.

“Multigrain”

Grains = healthy, right? Uh… well… if you have a grain intolerance, definitely no. But “multi” just means that there is probably more than one grain in that product, and unless those are whole grains, you’re just getting a lot of refined grains where they literally remove all the healthy stuff from the grain.

“Natural”

A product can claim it’s natural if it has a natural source. Just because the source might have been natural, that doesn't mean the final product is.

“Organic”

This one might be the worst offender. We LOVE organic things, but people can slap the organic title on anything. You need to make sure it’s been certified organic - check the label for a stamp that proves it’s been certified organic.

“No added sugar”

Okay, so its good they didn't add more sugar, but some products already have a enough sugar in them - so while it’s good they haven't added more, it might be too much already. Additionally, instead of adding sugar, manufacturers might have added unhealthy sugar substitutes.

“Low-fat”

Sure, it might be lower fat, but this usually always means more sugar - they want it to still taste good, right?

“Made with whole grain”

Sure, there might be whole grains in it… somewhere… If you look at the list of ingredients and don't see whole grains within the first three ingredients, then the amount of whole grains actually in the product is negligible.

The truth is you CAN outsmart those marketers - you just have to look further than just the front label’s marketing claims - turn the package over and take a look at the list of ingredients!

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: The Ingredients List

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re continuing our series on how to read food labels. Today I’m whittling down ingredients - as in - the ingredients list.

When it comes to food labels, marketers know how to complicate things, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret - a kind “go to” when it comes to deciding what you throw in your cart.

Number One Rule: If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. That means if you’re seeing a lot of sucroslaxatosiniumblahblahblah it’s probably not something you should be eating.

Highest to Lowest

Product ingredients are listed from highest to lowest amount. That means the “most used” ingredient is listed first. For example, if you are buying peanut butter, ideally peanuts are the first (and only) ingredient. Take a look at the first three ingredients - those are probably the largest parts of what you are eating - then refer back to the number one rule: can you pronounce them?

How Many Ingredients?

Another way to make sure you’re not eating a lot of junk is to look at how long the list of ingredients is. Longer than 2 to 3 lines? Chances are it’s highly processed junk.

Do Your Research

If you run across something you’ve never seen before - such as acacia gum or xanthan gum or even what “refined” versus “unrefined” is - I suggest you pull out your phone and look it up. Knowing exactly what ingredients actually are can help you decide what you want to put in your body. When it comes to the list of ingredients, knowledge really is power.

So here’s a quick checklist when you’re standing in that grocery aisle:
  • What are the first three ingredients?
  • Can I pronounce them?
  • Are there any odd things I should look up?
  • Is the list 2-3 lines or 23 lines?

Hope that helps you whittle down while you’re trying to “whittle” down your maybe not-so-clean eating habits.


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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: Sugar

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re starting a series on how to read food labels. Today I’m going to sweet talk you - with the 411 on Sugar.

It’s no wonder that food-makers create confusing labels - if our customers are confused they’ll just give up and buy our product. But there are ways we can outsmart these witty marketers - you just have to know the tricks they use.

Why is Sugar so Bad?

Let’s talk about why you need to be on the lookout. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. And that’s just to name a few things. If you want to read a little more on exactly HOW sugar is processed by your body, take a look at this article from Women’s Health

As Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco, explains, "You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does.” The truth is food-makers add a ton of sugar to things - even when we don’t need them to! That translates to you getting way more sugar than your body actually needs.

How Much is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization, sugar should be 5% of your diet - that equates to 6 teaspoons per day. Yup! That isn’t a lot!

All the Different Names for Sugar

Before we eliminate all the unnecessary sugar in our diets, we’re going to need to know what to look for. Here are just a few of sugar’s “altar egos” you’ll want to look for when you’re perusing those labels:
  • Agave Nectar
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastase
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Muscovado
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
Now that you know what you’re looking for you can tackle the sugar part of reading your labels!

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