Lately I have been getting a lot of calls from people who want to transition to either healthier eating or a vegan diet because they have seen a documentary or read about something they didn’t like in the industry. I think this is great because anytime we make positive dietary changes, we are not only helping ourselves with better health, but we are also helping the planet and the animals.
A good place to start is to evaluate what you are currently eating. Let’s start with processed foods, personally I try to buy as little packaged food as possible, but when I do I make sure that I’m buying the best quality I can; it’s a process and I want to help you with that. How do I do that? I read the labels on the package.
I am a big proponent of reading labels, not in the traditional sense of reading them but to really find out what’s in the product. Typically we are told to use the nutrition facts label because it is government regulated, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% true. The nutrition facts label can be deceptive, manufacturers can play with the numbers so the product is perceived the way they want it to be…to follow the trends; gluten free, sugar free, low cholesterol.
If you are only looking at the nutrition facts box, you are only getting half the story. For instance a manufacturer can put 0 g of sugar on the nutrition facts label even though sugar is listed in two or three places in the ingredients. How is this possible? As long as there is .5 g or less per serving, they can put 0 g. So for each of those sugars, each one has .5 g or less per serving, this can wind up being a lot of sugar.
So I just mentioned per serving. There is a difference between serving size and portion size. This is one thing I do recommend looking at because the serving size is a set amount like ½ cup whereas a portion size is what we serve ourselves which is typically double or triple of the serving size. So make sure to check the serving size on the top of the nutrition facts label.
Use the nutrition facts label as a tool to help guide you but don’t use it by itself, consult the ingredients list too. This is where you will find out more information as to what is in the product. Using the two together will give you a more complete picture.
What you want to look for is a small list of ingredients, maybe five to six ingredients with names you can pronounce. The ingredients are listed in descending order, so the first ingredient is usually the largest amount and the last ingredient is the smallest.
So how do you put this into practice? Start at home, pull out those cereal boxes, I’m not a fan of these but let’s look at it as an example. Look at the ingredients, how long is the list, can you name all of them? Do you know what each ingredient is? Are there preservatives that you’re not quite sure about? How many sugars are there that you can recognize? Are there genetically modified ingredients? Are there food colors?
Start with this one food, assess it and next time you go shopping look for a better alternative. Do this for all of your processed foods and each time dig a little deeper. Eventually, you will get to a place where there is less and less processed foods and more foods in their natural state in your shopping cart. It’s a process, you can go as fast or slow as you like.