It’s January – we’re surrounded by advertising for diets, detoxes and friends signing up for weight loss programmes and slimming clubs. It’s easy to understand the temptation. Someone else has done the planning for you and you can reap the benefits just by sticking to it, then there is the support offered, which is of course valuable.
If everyone could understand nutritional labelling though, would there really be a need for organised diets?
I’ve perfected the art of dissecting labels like this over years. There ain’t no way I’m going to be able to communicate that in one blog post but I can give you some heads up help because it seems like various slimming clubs, ‘diet’ products and ‘cleanse’ programmes are banking on their members to not have a flipping clue what they are recommending you to eat/drink!
Low Fat – you’d think that was a green flag for health wouldn’t you? Not necessarily. Manufacturers only have to comply with a rule that something ‘low-fat’ is 30% lower in fat than a standard product and almost a third less of something very high in saturated fat is still pretty high in fat! In terms of signalling fat content though ‘reduced’ or ‘lower’ or ‘lite’ is probably better for you though – right? Wrong! I’ve blogged about this in more detail before (What Your Slimming Club Doesn’t tell You: http://www.thisisnotadiet.uk/?p=196). Low-fat foods are often packed full of salt and sugar to compensate for the taste lost through reducing fat. The sugar can be in all sorts of strange places too. Weight Watchers chilli has sugar in it. Marketed as low in fat (which it is) but why sugar? Who puts sugar in chilli? Why would a ‘weight loss’ savoury product contain sugar?
Really want to eat low-fat foods? check the label and opt for products with 1.5g out of 100g as saturated fats and check the salt and sugar quantities. Or better still, eat naturally low-fat foods? Fruit, vegetables, rice, whole-grains, starchy veg, all are naturally low fat and no label to check 😀
No Added Sugar – this is a minefield people! Our favourite rice milk has no sugar or sweetener. They also do a ‘No Added Sugar’ version which has sweeteners. It makes no sense!! Our usual one has neither sugar nor sweeteners but isn’t labelled with anything. This is because manufacturers know that people like sweet things, if they say ‘no added sugar’ it can be code to consumers for artificially sweetened! You might still enjoy their product with the sweeteners yet the real ‘no added sweetness’ milk isn’t labelled as anything. Sugar is another dieters no-no, I’ve covered this in more detail in the above linked blog. Here’s the deal though – sweeteners; aspartame, sorbitol, acelsulfame can have some nasty and surprising side effects. There is some evidence that the sweeteners can increase weight gain, disrupt metabolism and encourage sweet cravings. An excellent article on these risks can be found here.
Natural – I’m bound to approve of this one though? Nope. Products labelled as ‘healthy’ ‘fresh’ ‘pure’ or ‘natural’ are not well governed or governed at all in cases of labels like ‘fresh.’ If you want fresh, natural, pure and healthy ditch foods with labels and go for the green stuff. The fruit aisle. You’re quite safe there!
In short. If you don’t understand the label, do some research. Read up a bit. Think about what you’re eating and how you are being manipulated by unscrupulous advertising or misled by ‘diet sounding’ products. If your low-fat yogurt has sugar in the top three ingredient like Slimming World recommended Muller Lite has – refer to the above guide and think about it. Do you really want to train your body to become accustomed to unnecessarily sweet foods? ‘Cos that won’t help your ‘diet’ in the long-term and that’s what we’re in this life for. The long-term.
- Read the label – make informed choices.
- Eat plentiful fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid packaged foods with any ingredient you cannot buy yourself in the shop.