I bet you’ve heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Assuming the adage is true, then I must ask: Do you know what you are? Right now, I am “freshly diced fruit salad smothered with melted chocolate fudge icing.” Yikes! It starts off good, doesn’t it?
Do you look at food labels when making selections for yourself and your family? I do! Now, to be completely frank, I don’t always make the best choices when it comes to eating a healthy, balanced diet. (If you have any questions about this, see above!) If I wanted to ensure the healthiest, most balanced diet for myself and my family, we would grow as much of our own food as we could. And, we’d buy the rest as locally as possible from farmers who only use certified Non-GMO seeds/plants and who don’t use chemicals for pest control/fertilization.
But, here’s the thing, what I described above is an ideal. In this household, we don’t even come close to achieving that ideal. We do eat out at restaurants. We do buy pre-packaged, processed foods. We do consume things that we know are not healthy for us. However, we do also strive to make some smart, healthy, informed choices about what we consume.
One of the ways I ensure that I am making healthier choices for myself and my family is by reading food labels. I have been doing this for a long time, especially since I had children. When Alaska Girl was 4, she had a bad stomach bug. As she was recovering, I gave her the typical “feel better soon” products, such as fever reducer, pediatric fluids, and gelatin. Unfortunately, most of the products I used while she was recovering contained red dye. She developed an intolerance for red dye and we had to ban it from her diet for months. Many years later, we noticed that Hawaii Boy was behaving very badly and eventually determined it was a reaction to Yellow Lake #5. Naturally, as any sanity-desiring parent would do, we started to avoid that dye like the plague!
We also avoid products made with High-Fructose Corn Syrup and all artificial sweeteners. When I purchase products that are sweetened, I prefer products made with real sugar and/or other natural sweeteners (such as stevia). Furthermore, I tend to buy the product with the least amount of added sweetener. So for instance, if I am looking for apple juice, I will make sure the product I buy is 100% apple juice with no added sugar. Better yet, if there are two 100% apple juice products with no added sugar, I will likely purchase the one with the lowest number of carbohydrates (as listed on the nutrition labels).
However, there are additional significant reasons why I read nutrition labels. I avoid products that claim a health benefit (such as “low fat”) but are filled with low-quality substitutes. I want to purchase products with ingredients I can actually pronounce. (If I can’t pronounce it, I know we should not be eating it!) I also prefer to buy products that are:
low in “bad” fats
low in sodium
low in preservatives
low in nitrates/nitrites
void of artificial colorings and flavorings
It is simple to check food nutrition labels on products and/or their packaging. But, if you’d like additional information related to choosing healthy food, visit a site such as FoodFacts.com, where you can find a health score for numerous food products. They have an app that helps you track what you eat so that you can avoid food allergens, balance your diet, etc. They also include grades for popular choices from a long list of restaurants.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for FoodFacts.com. I received compensation for this post.