My food lifestyle has truly evolved, from one loaded with sugary foods with no nutritional value to one focused on green vegetables and nourishing, whole foods.
With that shift, I've also changed the way I read nutrition labels. In fact, grocery shopping for me can be high-involvement, even when buying what should be considered low-involvement purchases, like jam or jelly.
Is this a waste of time or even necessary?
Well, my new food lifestyle and new way of reading nutrition labels may take more time, but it helps to ensure I know what’s going into my body and helps me to better understand my own food choices.
Plus, once you figure out the foods that work for you and get into your own rhythm, it doesn't have to take so long!
Let's face it—every new diet or fad tells you that fat is the only concern you should have or that cholesterol or sodium are the only indicators. Yet, why not begin with source, the ingredient list itself?
Here are some considerations to keep in mind the next time you buy any food at the grocery store:
1. How long is the ingredient list?
Especially when looking at the ingredients for something as simple as jam or jelly. Does it really need to contain added sugar or natural flavorings?
2. Does sugar need to be on that list?
From corn syrup to anything ending in -ose, such as fructose or glucose ... is the added sugar really necessary?
3. Where do the key ingredients fall in the list?
For example, I'd want the the first ingredient in strawberry jam to be "strawberries." Yet, often sugar is the first ingredient listed, which then means there is more sugar than fruit. Be aware of the order in which those ingredients appear! They're listed in order of abundance.
4. Can you pronounce the ingredients and/or know what each ingredient actually is?
Often, the simpler the better when it comes to an ingredient list. Just think about our body for a moment, and if we can’t pronounce an ingredient, do you think your body was designed to properly digest it? Just be aware that if you have a choice: go for the item whose ingredients you can pronounce.
5. Choose the less processed option.
By looking for products that are “unrefined” or even choosing to use whole ingredients, you ensure you're consuming a product as close to its natural state as possible. Now, this can be a difficult step, so all I’m asking you to do is take it small. Start with one ingredient. For example, I strive to avoid corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. It’s a highly processed sugar that always leaves me wanting more and more. For me, a wiser choice would be coconut sugar or even honey. Know yourself and your patterns and accommodate accordingly.
6. Above all, know that every day doesn’t have to be perfect.
Trying your best is a step in the right direction. Know that being conscience of what you are putting into your body by beginning with the ingredients listed on the product, will mean you are conscience of sodium, sugars, fats, etc., without even realizing it.
Lastly, remember this is part of your food lifestyle, so take it one day at a time and know there is always tomorrow to give it another go!