Have you noticed with all the latest health trends there seems to be a lot more packaging touting the health benefits of what’s inside? But is it really healthy?? Or are they just taking advantage of us busy moms who want to get ourselves and our kids healthy food? It says it’s healthy on the front, do we really need to look at all the ingredients on the back?
Let’s look at a few healthy claims that should make you take a second look.
By now, hopefully, we know that whole grains are better for us than processed grains. When grains are processed, they are stripped of most of their nutrients. But what does that mean when buying food, bread in particular? First, we have to know that “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour” are the same thing as white flour. Manufacturers take whole-grain wheat, strip out 11 vitamins and minerals, then add synthetic chemicals that represent only four vitamins and one mineral. In other words “enriched” means added from the processed state, not the natural state and therefore still missing 7 vitamins and 3 minerals.
Because consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers of processed food, manufacturers have started using the term “wheat flour” or the claim “made with whole grains” to trick consumers. Often times companies blend whole grains with processed grains in an effort to save money while still touting the whole grains claim.
New research from one popular pastry manufacturer shows that an astonishing 73 percent of mothers mistakenly believe “wheat flour” is the same as whole-grain wheat flour.
Thus, by exploiting this consumer confusion, food manufacturing companies are able to reposition cheap, refined grain products with low nutritional value as “healthy-sounding” foods because they’re made with “wheat flour.”
For a flour or flour-based product to be truly whole-grain, it must explicitly list “whole-grain wheat flour” as a primary ingredient. Bottom line: Avoid the following ingredients:
• Enriched wheat flour.
• Wheat flour.
• White flour.
• All-purpose flour.
• Bleached flour.
• Cake flour.
• Bread flour.
If you want the best nutrition from a wheat-based ingredient, shop only for whole-grain wheat, not enriched wheat flour or simply “wheat flour.” Watch out for tricks and traps set for consumers by food manufacturers, and don’t trust what you read on the front of the label — always check the actual ingredients list to verify what you’re getting.
In this section I am also going to include “diet” and “light.” Again, let’s start at the beginning.
Here are words that all mean sugar:
I know right?! Who knew there we so many different ways to sneak the sweets into our foods?!?! I even underlined a few of the ones we may think of as “healthy.” What do we need to look for? If you ask any nutritionist, they will tell you sugar is sugar. Look for sugar substitutes if what you are eating claims to be sugar free but still tastes sweet. While many of the above are man made chemicals or seem worse than others, overall we want to limit the total amount of sugar we have in our diets. Remember ingredients are listed in order of the amount present in the food. The closer to the beginning of the ingredient list one of those “sugars” is listed the more is in your serving!
How much sugar is okay? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons for women. As for kids, the AHA recommends no more than 16.7 grams or 4 teaspoons for preschoolers, 12.5 grams or 3 teaspoons per day for 4-8 year olds and 21-33 grams or 5-8 teaspoons for pre-teen to teenagers (based on an 1,800-2,000 calorie per day diet). That’s TOTAL per day, not per serving!!!
How much sugar is in our “healthy” foods? Let’s look at some of the biggest offenders, nutrition bars, yogurt and cereal.
Cliff Kid organic Z Bars contain 11 grams of sugar for one bar, peanut butter chocolate chip Larabars contain 19 grams of sugar per bar! So, what should we eat instead? Here’s an article laying out the best and worst for nutrition bars.
As for yogurt, Fage Nonfat Greek Yogurt with strawberry has 16g of sugar for one 7 oz. container! I recently sent my husband to get me a large tub of Vanilla Greek yogurt and the tub he came back with had a whopping 26 grams of sugar PER SERVING. What to do instead? Fage 0% plain greek yogurt and fresh fruit cuts the sugars down to 7 grams for the yogurt with each strawberry having about .6 grams. Make sure you check the labels for the type of yogurt you get.
I grew up in the generation of sugar cereal – count chocula, smurf berry crunch, even dunkin donuts had a cereal. I remember my mom telling me that I couldn’t get any cereal that had sugar as one of the first three ingredients. I couldn’t wait to go to grandma’s house to have a bowl of my beloved Golden Grahams. We think we’ve gotten more heath conscious since then, but have we? Today’s cereal has an average of 10-30 grams of sugar per serving!! Those purporting to be healthy are some of the worst offenders. Take Cheerios for example. Regular plain old Cheerios has 1 gram of sugar per serving. New “Protein” Cheerios packs in a whopping (yes that is the second time I’ve used Whopping) 17 grams of sugar per serving! How about Kashi our “real ingredient” people? One serving of Kashi Go Lean Crisp toasted berry contains 10 grams of sugar in 3/4 of a cup! Make sure you are checking the serving size in addition to the amount of sugar!
Finally, my biggest pet peeve…
As a mom I totally understand the pain in the butt of making lunches that your kids actually want to eat. Trying to find healthy alternatives to easy fixes like chips is something we are all trying to do. Please, please do not fall into the veggie straw trap. Just because the packaging says veggie does not mean they are healthy. They’re chips. Yup check the ingredients, potato starch, potato flour. There may be an argument that they are worse because the main ingredients are processed potatoes not even slices of the actual potato!
As for Vitamin water, the label touts all the beneficial vitamins that have been added to your water so you will be SO healthy once you drink it. In reality to make the taste appealing to the general public, most flavors of Vitamin water have 26 grams of sugar per serving! That’s more than an adult female should eat in an entire day!!!
Bottom line, staying away from processed foods is the easiest way to avoid the random “stuff” that manufacturers add to our food usually without us knowing. When real life makes some processed food a necessity, we really need to check the ingredients on the back and not just rely on the bold advertisements on the front.