One of the best ways to become in tune with your health is to understand the complexities of food labels. The makers of ingredient labels try to entice you with descriptions on the front of packages claiming their product is full of whole grains, low in sodium, trans fat, and/or cholesterol. How do you know if this is true? Let me help you navigate your way to better health with a few tips.
Here are some hints/guidelines for the next time you are at the supermarket and wondering if the product you are looking at is a good choice.
- In the ingredient list, avoid any words that contain hydrogenation, such as partially hydrogenated soybean oil. When a product has hydrogenation, it’s a hidden meaning for trans fat. The next time you are at the store take a look at a package of crackers. You will most likely see this ingredient in the list, but does the label say it contains trans fat? If a product has less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer is able to put 0 grams on the label. However, you are still consuming the trans fat.
- High fructose corn syrup or just corn syrup would be the next ingredient to be on the lookout for. Since this popular sweetener is cheaper to use and helps extend a product’s shelf life, it has found its way into many processed foods, drinks, and sodas. Research hasn’t been conclusive in determining its effect on obesity and diabetes, but it would be best to avoid this processed ingredient.
- The next ingredient I would advise you to be aware of is preservatives including artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, sulfites, nitrites, and dyes (red 40, blue 1, yellow number 5, etc). These artificial colors are used to bring out the colors of the food either naturally or synthetically, which may be used to impart taste and odor, to compensate for flavor loss, trendiness or nostalgia. Food products with these may be safe in small amounts, although they can be toxic in large amounts. How many food products contain these different chemicals or many other ones? Consuming foods with these ingredients once in a while may not pose any problems, however, overtime these toxins build up in your system leading to health problems.
For further information on understanding a food label, check out this website from the Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-facts/NU00293
Growing up I’ve always seemed to change recipes around to make them lower in fat. Recipes that were too rich or heavy in fat and oil did not sit well with me (I had difficulty digesting them). When I came across recipes I wanted to make, I chose to keep the flavor component but decided to cut down on the calories and fat. My taste testers…well I had to appeal to my older brothers appetites without them being aware of any recipe modifications. In the end, I think many of the dishes turned out pretty well.
If you have a recipe you would like modified or suggestions to make it healthier, let me know!
Here’s a recipe that became a favorite the first time I made it. I try to opt for different flours instead of the usual all-purpose flour or whole wheat. This recipe is called Scottish Scones from Pillsbury: The Complete Book of Baking.
Here is my modified version. Barley flour was used instead of white flour to increase the fiber content as well as adding more nutrients since it is not refined. Hemp milk provides plenty of beneficial omega’s as well as protein, minerals including calcium and iron as well as Vitamins A, D, and the B vitamins.
- 1 1/2 cups barley flour
- 3/4 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I always prefer a little bit more than this)
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Hemp milk
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; blend well. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Add milk all at once, stirring just until moistened.
On floured surface, gently knead dough five or six times. Place on greased cookie sheet; press into 6-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. Brush top of dough with melted butter and in a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over top. Cut down into 8 wedges.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Hunger begins not only with how food tastes, but also with how it appears visually on your plate. Imagine a plate of food that is dreary in colors of white, beige, and browns. Is it visually appealing? Is your mouth watering just thinking about it? Now visualize a plate of purples, reds, and greens such as a beautiful salad tossed with fresh, seasonal cucumbers, bright, plump cherry tomatoes, bits of purple cabbage, and thin slices of red onion. Or perhaps you would be more enticed with a thick cornmeal waffle topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries with a bit of maple syrup. Eating first with your eyes helps to jumpstart the digestion process, which in turn helps you to better absorb the nutrients from your meal. In the end, an appealing plate of beautiful colors from an array of vegetables and/or fruits is pleasing to the eye and promotes an enjoyable, healthy digestion.
When you prepare your next meal, think about vibrant colors from the many kinds of vegetables and fruits and how you can make it more enticing to the eye. Start off with just one small change as eating healthy is not just about how a food tastes, but how it looks, and how well it nourishes your body. Remember, one small change is all it takes to become healthier both inside and out!
Here is a beautiful raw cabbage salad that is pleasing to the eye and just as tasty!
- 1/2 head of purple cabbage, chopped
- 2 cups spinach, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup arame (soaked and rinsed)
- 1 fresh squeezed lime
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
Mix all the above ingredients together and toss with the dressing. As a note the ingredient measurements are just a guideline as I do not usually measure them, but rather just toss them together, pour on the vinegar and lime juice. After giving it a taste, I adjust for seasonings.