Just the fact’s ma’am

Looking over yesterdays post, it dawns on me that misleading information is all around us. Just look at your local grocery store. Every other box, can, and bag screams HEALTHY! or something similar. But are they as healthy on the inside as they would have you believe?

Unlike Mr. Greene, these boxes, cans, and labels come with a little reality check called the label (or, for those of us that read them religiously, The Label). And there are, oh, so many sources online to help you understand what are already pretty understandable items.

Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Sometimes serving sizes make me snort in a most unladylike manner. For example, let's say one serving size of pretzels = 1 ounce. What the heck is an ounce of pretzels? I can probably nibble at least 3 ounces trying to figure it out. And, what's worse, is that calorie count is based on serving size. Which means you have to adjust accordingly. So, if you are going to eat 3 ounces of pretzels, then you have to increase the number of calories listed on the box by 3. And, in my world, deduct the amount of calories expended worrying about it all. But, alas, only in my world.
  • The labels are based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day. If you are female, unless you are a triathlon or a teenager, this is likely way too high. Which means you have to adjust those percentages to reflect the percentage for the number of calories you are really getting in a day. Too complicated? It is for me. So I just use these as a general guide (for example: This food is awfully high in sodium or is brimming with iron or what have you).
  • Pay close attention to the items in yellow (fat, cholesterol, and sodium). These are the items you want to limit. So the lower, the better. For example, you don’t want to exceed more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day (I’ve seen lower numbers - 2,000 per day and so on - elsewhere, so you might want to research this). Remember, that number is the total of everything you eat in one day. It’s nuts trying to keep track of this, so I just try to buy foods low in sodium.
  • The items in blue (iron, calcium, fiber, and vitamins A and C) are the good guys. Look for higher numbers here.
  • Good as food labels are, they are only half of the story. For the other half of the story, take a look at the ingredients. Ingredients on foods are listed, by weight, from the largest to the smallest. This means that if high fructose corn syrup is the first item on the list, the product gives you more high fructose corn syrup than anything else. I glance at the first 3 - 5 ingredients. Are they healthy? Then woo hoo! If not, than back on the shelf it goes. I also glance at the remainder of the list for any red flags, such as multi-syllabic chemicals I could not possibly pronounce. These, too, encourage a “put back on the shelf and step away slowly” response.
The easiest way to deal with a food label is to not. After all, some of the healthiest foods don’t come with a label. Such as asparagus. And pears. And strawberries. And onions. And carrots and apples and cherries and ... well, they don’t call me the almost vegetarian for nothing!