“Eat better, not less.” That’s one of the key messages we get from all health gurus. To me, it means I’d better eat 100 kcal in fat fish, rater than 100 kcal in chocolate.
Why you should start reading food labels
In this respect, it is of utmost importance to start getting concious about what you are actually eating. The only way to make this happen, is to start reading food labels -especially since food packaging is often misleading.
One of the key messages I’d like to share with you, before I go deeper into this, is that you should aim to eat less sugar.
Let me give you some examples of how packages can be misleading:
1. I’m pretty convinced that over 90% of those “healthy” cereals, cereal bars or fruit bars for breakfast are packed with sugar. For example. Let’s compare Quaker’s regular oats and Quaker’s oats with cinnamon. We all know that oats are healthy, right? Also, we all know that cinnamon is healthy. So, oats with cinnamon must be at least as healthy as regular oats, right? In theory: yes. However, compare both packages (apologies, they are in Dutch, since these are available on the Belgian market):
Let’s start with the regular oats. Per 100 gram, they contain 1 gram of sugar, which is really good.
Now, compare that with the cinnamon oats. These contain 19 grams sugar per 100 gram. Which is 19x more than the regular oats and which means that almost 1/5 of your package is sugar. So, ladies and gentlemen, this is actually a high sugar product which you should avoid.
2. The same is true for low-fat yoghurt. Low-fat does not mean low-sugar. On the contrary, often these yoghurts are way unhealthier than high fat yoghurts available.
3. “Low calorie” products are often full of crap and not nutricious at all. I used to eat “healthy” cereal bars at 10 AM as my daily snack as they were rather low in calories for a snack (ca. 90 kcal). It was only after I started getting aware of the food label, that I realized this bar was packed with sugar. Now, I try to go for nuts (be careful though, they are rather high in calories), canned fish or something similar as a snack.
How to read food labels
I will not provide you with a complete guide to reading food labels (you can find plenty of such guides online), but I wanted to share with you some key tips.
1. Check the nutritional values per 100 grams, rather than per “serving”. You should make your own estimation on what your food intake is. The amounts on the package are often not in line with your personal preferences.
2. Have a look at the calories, but realize the nutritional values are way more important than the amount of calories. Of course, you should not go for a “calorie overkill”, but it’s more important to have 100 kcal of something that nurishes your body than 50 kcal of chemical crap.
3. Limit the amount of sugar -preferably stay under 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams.
4. Go for high amounts of dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins and other nutrients you need every day.
I realize it’s rather difficult in the beginning, but I promise: it won’t take long until you get a hang of it and it will have an enormous impact on your health -just by realizing how much hidden sugar is often present in “healthy food”. If you have some questions, of course, just give me a sign. I’m happy to help!