Is That Food Healthy? Deciphering Food Labels

There are several aspects to every food label that need to be examined when you’re determining whether the product you are purchasing is a healthy choice. The front label, or what you see first, is the manufacturer’s marketing hype. You can ignore that part of the label completely. For example, the term “all natural” is meaningless. There are no regulations governing use of the term. The FDA apparently doesn’t care if “blueberry” cereals contain absolutely no blueberries. The fruit looking “crunchlets” are actually lumps of sugar dyed blue. There are “juices” marketed for young children that are nothing more than sugar water. Any company can put “free range” on the label of any package containing eggs. There is, however, a rule for the term “free range” when used on a package of chicken. It means our feathered friends have been allowed a minimum of five minutes per day out in the open.

The nutritional portion of the label gives us a bit more real information such as the number of calories, grams of fat and sugar per serving. Be aware that companies love to help you avoid the caloric sticker shock by changing “serving size” to smaller portions. If they can make it small enough so that trans-fat or other evil substance take up.5 grams or less, they can actually label the food as “trans-fat free” even when it isn’t. Conversely, when they want you to consume a huge drink product in one sitting, they claim there’s only one serving in the container. You tell me how an eight ounce, 12 ounce, and 22 ounce container of the same brand of soft drink are all single servings. When you buy a two liter bottle, the single serving size drops back down to eight ounces. Amazing.

A third part of a food label lists ingredients in order of the predominance according to weight. Let’s examine a “whole wheat” saltine cracker manufactured by one of the big companies. Our first reaction when we look at the front of the box is, “Wow, this has to be healthier than a regular saltine because it’s made from whole grain wheat.” When we turn the box over and examine the nutritional information, it still looks okay because the recommended serving size of five crackers contains only 60 calories. Further down we discover that 25 percent of the calories come from fat which we’re not too crazy about. At least it isn’t saturated or the evil trans-fat. We do find 230mg of salt. But, then again, this is a saltine. What did we expect? If we stop here, we’re not too discouraged with anything but the salt content which, by the way, is significantly more than that found in a regular saltine. Now, let’s look at the list of ingredients. First up is wheat flour. Don’t be fooled. That does not mean whole wheat flour. It means flour derived from wheat rather than rice, corn, or any other grain. That’s right. It’s plain old white flour. The actual whole wheat flour is third on the list of ingredients, which means it really doesn’t constitute a significant portion of the cracker. That’s because, let’s face it, no one would buy a cracker that is made from a large amount of whole wheat flour. It wouldn’t taste good to those of us who have been brought up eating refined products. But, because this manufacturer knows we all want to become healthier, they’ve come up with this “whole wheat” cracker that is, in reality, the original version with more salt. There’s not even enough whole wheat flour in it to make it look like a “whole wheat cracker” so they’ve added caramel color to complete the costume.

We all know that sugar isn’t good for you. So, how does a manufacturer market a product that is high in sugar? If they list it first on the ingredient label, it makes it so obvious that this “food” isn’t healthy. They can get away with that on items you find in the candy aisle because you expect to find lots of sugar there. But how do they fool you into buying a blueberry muffin mix that’s high in sugar? They use sweeteners that originate from about three different sources so they can all be listed separately and, subsequently, further down on the list. Now they’re selling you on a product that’s “full of anti-oxidant rich fruit” instead of one that’s really highly sweetened.

Sensitive to MSG? Me too. I hate the stuff. The manufacturers know that it’s gotten a lot of well-deserved bad press. So, they include it under a host of different names. As a matter of fact, there are so many substances that contain it, all the space in this article would be consumed if I listed every one of them. Gelatin calcium caseinate, textured protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, yeast extract, autolyzed plant protein, vegetable protein extract, maltodextrin, and barley malt are but a few. Very scary.

The moral of the story is that the FDA has sold out to all the food lobbyists and we don’t have any recourse but to do the homework ourselves. We’re being fed slow poison and, to make things worse, we’re actually paying for it willingly. And the high cost doesn’t end at the supermarket. Larger medical bills, compromised productivity, and poor mental health are also serious consequences of this problem. The best thing you can do for you and your family is to buy single ingredient items and do most of your shopping in the produce section. Make the food manufacturers go out and find some honest work.

Happy Food, Healthy Body!

You are what you eat! Did you know that you have the unique ability to actually influence – in a big way – whether your body is full of energy and vitality or whether it’s sick, lethargic and headed for a trainwreck? Much of it depends on what you eat.

How does that work? Stick with me here while I give a quickie biology refresher. Your body is made up of trillions of cells? TRILLIONS!! Every single part of your body, from the hair at the top of your head to the tip of your pretty little toenail, consists of cells. That means every organ, every blood vessel, every tendon, ligament and bone. EVERYTHING! And every single cell is affected by and affects every other cell in some way, however indirect. Every day, millions of those cells perish. But fear not, because every day millions of NEW ones are created to replace those that hit the graveyard.

Here’s where it gets exciting! Get this…We can determine how healthy those new cells are going to be! And that, my friend, is how you influence your health! Depending on what and how we eat, our food choices determine the QUALITY of those new cells! That means that every day you have an opportunity to create brand spanking new cells that can be even better than the ones before! (Or to create low quality, poorly functioning cells – but let’s focus on the positive here, okay?!)

Why does that matter? When we eat good foods, from good plants (or animals) grown in good soil (or other healthy environment), we create good, happy cells (think “smiley faces”!). These smiley faces now make up some of the trillions of cells that make up your body. So the more you eat well, the MORE smiley faces you’ll be creating – every single day! The result? An increasingly happier, healthier body! It works both ways: Every time we eat not so good foods from not so good sources (like processed, packaged stuff or commercially grown foods containing a lot of hormones or pesticides) we are creating unhappy cells (sad faces). And…..the more we eat like this, the unhappier the body becomes, making it more prone to sickness, disease, cancer and, well, just lots of bad stuff that we don’t want.

What to eat? I could write volumes about this (and volumes HAVE been written, which has just created more confusion!). But I’m going to boil this down into just a few key points based on Michael Pollan’s great book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I loved this book. It is simple, concise, and exactly what I would have written had I created a best-selling book on nutrition! “Food Rules” offers an informative list of practical, common sense guidelines for eating to achieve the best health possible. The premise: Eat food (that means REAL food, not processed, food-like substances); mostly plants (for all the amazing goodness they provide) and not too much (always in moderation). Today I’m giving you a few of my very favorites. Here we go…

Eat

  • only foods that will eventually rot
  • the rainbow – a variety of colorful fruits and veggies
  • animals that have eaten and been treated well
  • food from healthy soil

Avoid

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (and products containing it)
  • foods with some sort of sugar in the first three ingredients
  • foods with more than 5 ingredients
  • foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce
  • “lite”, low-fat or non-fat ingredients or marketing language
  • foods pretending to be something they’re not (margarine, soy meats)
  • the “whites” (white flour, white sugar, white rice, white potatoes)

Do

  • shop the perimiter of the store
  • use only stoneground grains and cold pressed oils
  • pay more, eat less
  • cook!

Don’t

  • drink your sweets (fruit juices, coffee-flavored beverages, sweetened waters)
  • get your fuel from the same place as your car

And finally some parting words of wisdom (a little disclaimer here: My husband thinks this is a bit harsh. But I promise you, the next time you consider a loaf of that white, squishy bread – you know what I’m talking about – you’ll remember this!): “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead” Apply these simple tips as often as you can and you’re on the road to a healthier, happier body and life! Here’s to living well!

Japanese Diet Food – Healthy Eating Made Easy

While the fast-paced culture is immersed with the abundance of ready-to-eat foods, and calorie-laden fast food meals, we expect more obesity or poor health due to these unhealthy food options. While diabetes and other health concerns are on the rise in most countries, Japanese people have been able to generally maintain good health because of their carefully prepared home-made meals or the many healthy options available to them in pubs and restaurants.

If you are on a diet, or on the track of just living a healthy lifestyle, a good alternative to explore is the Japanese diet food. Even if a good number of Japanese dishes have noodles or rice as component, which as we know are carbohydrates, it must be noted that many of their foods utilize very healthy ingredients – vegetables, soy and lots of seafood.

Japanese diet food is very different from the usual boring diet food familiar to many. Like most of the ordinary Japanese foods, they are appealing to both the sense of sight and taste. The ingredients which make up for a scrumptious Japanese dish are also those which prove to be healthy. Among the many healthy foods which are incorporated in Japanese cooking are fish, squid, shrimp and eel.

Seaweed, which is used in the Japanese’ ultimate favorite – sushi – is one of the healthiest foods. It is a food source for most minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc and selenium, even Vitamin A and C (specifically konbu) and protein (specifically nori). It is a good source for Vitamin B13 as well. With it being highly nutritious, one can surely give up the beef and the pork, which helps manage better weight and health. Miso is also one common, healthy ingredient. It is made from soy beans therefore rich also in protein. Another is sato-imo or country potatoes, or wild potatoes, or “magic potatoes” to most of us. Studies reveal that they are rich in Hyaluronic Acid, a natural substance we produce when we are young which keeps as healthy and less-prone to “aging-related diseases”. This decreases with age. We can get our requirement though from sato-imo.

Is Raw Dog Food Healthy For My Pet?

More and more pet owners are becoming convinced that raw dog food provides the best form of nutrition. Think about it – it’s what animals in the wild have eaten for centuries. This is nutrition as only nature can supply. Years ago, pets weren’t fed canned and processed, additive- and preservative-laden foods. Many dog lovers today believe that manufactured and processed “filler” dog foods are responsible for more human-type ailments that are afflicting pets than ever before.

Today, most of society is seeing the benefits of an all-natural and nutritious healthy diet. It works to keep humans thriving and at their optimum level of health. The same is true for pets. Dogs (and cats) by nature are carnivores and to receive the nutrition their bodies need requires a level of food that is more than can be found in canned or processed foods with ingredients that would not normally be found in nature. For dogs, it can be found in a raw dog food diet.

Some dehydrated dog food products are frozen and some remain fresh in their natural state until you add warm water to create a refreshing and unpolluted meal for your dog. Many raw food alternatives use hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats as well as 100 percent organic grains. When the ingredients can be referred to as 100 percent human grade food, you can be confident that food choice is a good one.

Raw food in dehydrated (dried) form is a natural process that has been used throughout the ages by humans. The nutritional value of the ingredients remains at premium quality through the use of this method. The moisture in the food (water) is removed in the process of dehydrating raw foods. When water is re-added to the food, it becomes whole again and offers the best nutrient-rich food source. For meat and egg components, the drying takes place at a high enough temperature to kill any bacteria that may have been present so that each food item remains completely safe.

How do you know if the raw dog food you choose for your pet is the right one? After a month or so, you should be able to notice a natural sheen on your dog’s coat, healthier skin, a brighter attitude, and an increased energy level. If you notice these changes, and your dog gets a glowing annual report from your veterinarian showing good overall test results and strong teeth, you will have a good indicator that your best canine friend is receiving the proper nutrition.