While grocery shopping lately, I picked up a can of soup I frequently ate as a kid. I could feel my mouth starting to salivate just looking at the well crafted marketing until I realized, "Gah! It's just the flavor enhancers in here that my taste buds are seeking!" I turned the can over and was mortified by the ingredients listed on the back. Five or so years ago, I would have had no idea how to decode the cryptic ingredients listed on many packaged foods, but now cracking the ingredient code has become a second language to me:
Each of these ingredients put up red flags in my mind. My general and not-very-scientific rule is: if I can't pronounce it or don't know what it is, I need to research it before it's going in my mouth. Needless to say, I put that can back on the shelf and quickly walked away. Now, I'm definitely not slamming all packaged foods. They serve many purposes and you'll definitely find some in my pantry; however, I've come to inspect the foods we place in our pantry and fridge through the lens of the information below. Live informed, not in fear, of the foods you eat!
Did you know that our current food labels are over 20 years old? What does that mean? The FDA has not made any changes to the labels we look at every day for over two decades! The FDA recently invited the public to comment some proposed changes and now has finalized their plans for updating the labels. A few things to look forward to:
- More of an emphasis on serving sizes
- A section for "Added Sugars" will be present
- "'Calories from Fat' is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount" (FDA, can we get a hallelujah!)
- Changes to serving size: "...serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. How much people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993." (FDA)
- Changes to package size: "Package size affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting" (FDA)
Click here to learn about the other new changes the FDA plans to make on food labels.
Our series on Eating Healthy on a Budget covered a lot of really great information about how to eat healthy without breaking the bank. Just to recap:
Part 1: In-store and online ways to save money
Part 2: Fad diets, diets that nourish, what is healthy eating
Part 3: How to structure your plate and our top 10 tips for eating healthy on a budget
We'd like to take the topic of eating healthy on a budget and put it under a magnifying glass. What foods are in your pantry? Your fridge? Your freezer?
Let's dial that in a little closer: Are any of the foods in your pantry/fridge/freezer in packages from a store?
Still have that magnifying glass handy? Flip that package over and begin studying that food label with your magnifying glass.
Kelley Suggs from Lithe Wellness Solutions once challenged me: if there are more than 5 ingredients listed, you should really consider, "Is this something I should be putting in my body?"
Ingredients to avoid
Listed below are some common ingredients found in many processed and packaged foods. Use this list to recognize harmful foods as you shop.
- Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Maltose, Sucrose, White Sugar
- Artificial Preservatives
- BHA, BHT, Nitrates and nitrites, Partially hydrogenated oil, Potassium bromate, Sodium benzoate, Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, Sulfates and sulfites
- Flavor Enhancers
- Artificial Sweeteners, Aspartame, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Sodium cyclamate, SPLENDA, Sucralose, Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein
- Enriched/Refined Grains (flours)
- Artificial Colors
Making the Change
We don't just want to stop at what foods to avoid; let's celebrate the foods that we should eat! As we talked in our series Eating Healthy On a Budget, the focus needs to be on the foods which actually nourish our body. In effort to help you discover new foods with a higher nutritional value, we have created the FOSS Chart. This chart is designed to give you tools you need to begin a pantry makeover in your own home. Please know that the process of a pantry makeover generally occurs over an extended time. When I say extended, it really depends on the family. I have heard of individuals doing a complete pantry makeover in one day, and they have never gone back to any toxic ingredients. But, in most cases those individuals are feeding themselves only or maybe one other person who also has a desire to change their eating habits. For those of us who are feeding others who may or may not be on the same health quest journey as us, the pantry makeover may takes months, even years.
My pantry at home has been in this makeover process for a number of years! I have one person who knows the value of choosing foods with ingredients that will nourish her body, and I have two others, who after years, are finally beginning to understand the impact of food choices and have opened their minds to examining which ingredients go in their mouths. One reason this switch has taken so long is the fact that changing taste buds takes times. If you were to take a look the pantry in my home, you will still notice a few items in my pantry that are in the RED column on the FOSS chart. These ingredients are used less and less.
The FOSS chart is one that I highly recommend you bring with you to the grocery store. The red column is truly an extended version of ingredients to avoid. As you move into the yellow column you are now getting into ingredients that have some nutritional value and are at least not toxic. As you move into the green column you are now choosing ingredients that provide the instructions our bodies are looking for to guide them in the functions they are to perform.
What does your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer look like? Where are you on the ongoing continuum of change when it comes to choosing food that nourishes your body? Give yourself grace. We're all in different places on the health and wellness continuum.
The very first step in the process which I recommend is to invite God into this journey with you and to look to Him for guidance on ways to get started. Next, here are few simple ways to begin looking at your food with a magnifying glass:
- Read nutrition labels
- Take time to look up recipes: go online, look through cookbooks and magazines, etc.
- Talk with friends & family for recipes & ideas
- Begin the Pantry Makeover process one food at a time!
Living wellness is an adventure! Embrace it and enjoy!
Caitlyn J. Hanson & Julie Frandsen
© 2017 Living Wellness, LLC Revolutionizing health, one community at a time.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.