Friday, February 13, 2009

What are you eating?

Kudos to everyone who reads their food labels while doing their weekly supermarket run! But, how far do you go? Do you check out the calories only? What about the fat content? Carbohydrates? Proteins? List of ingredients?

If you are like most label readers you probably stop reading after the fat, carb, and protein breakdown. Maybe that’s because you think you have gathered enough information to make a healthy buying decision. Ah-ha! But, it’s not. The list of ingredients is probably more important to pay attention to because it actually list what is in the product.

Let’s look at Yoplait Whips! Light & Fluffy Peaches ‘N Cream 4oz cup as an example. It’s 140 Calories, 2.5g Fat, 25g Carbohydrates, and 5g Protein. Great! Now let’s look at the list of ingredients: Reduced fat milk, sugar, nonfat milk, high fructose corn syrup, peach puree, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, annatto extract, vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3, lactic acid esters of mono and diglycerides, nitrogen.

(A brief lesson on how to read a list of ingredients: The ingredients listed first are the items that make up a large percent of the product and the ingredients listed last only make up a small percent of the product.)

So, looking back at our example, does anything stand out to you? How about the fact that peaches are the fifth item listed, behind sugar AND high fructose corn syrup! (High fructose corn syrup is just another name for sugar.) If you want to read a really good article on WHY high fructose corn syrup is bad for you check out Cassandra Forsythe’s article on Figure Athlete.

Why am I writing this blog? Well, I haven’t personally come across a book or website yet that picks a product (“healthy” or not) off the shelf and explains exactly what dextrose, monosodium glutamate, or maltodextrin is and why it is (or isn’t) bad for you. Or what does enriched flour or modified corn starch mean? I want to make it easy for people to find this information so they can start to understand why it is so important to read food labels beyond just calories, and to realize what they are putting into their bodies.

So check back often for ingredient reviews and if there is a particular food you would like to see dissected and explained please e-mail me at:

I look forward to doing my part towards helping make America (and maybe the world) a little bit healthier!

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