We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that health conscious diets are on the rise: in fact, when one walks into a supermarket there is a ‘health conscious’ product on almost every shelf! What is scary, however, are the various methods employed by brands to disguise exactly what is being used in their food production processes.
Although outwardly convincing, labels and packaging are often misleading. Products that appear healthy on the outside are regularly filled with potentially harmful ingredients. Because of this, individual customers need to spend time understanding exactly what packaged food contains, avoiding the assumption that healthy packaging means healthy ingredients.
The good news? Food producers are legally obliged to list all of the ingredients within a product. As you become more accustomed to reading these lists, you will also become increasingly equipped in understanding what it is that each of the bits and bobs refer to.
Becoming more label-savvy
What’s the deal with quantity?
The first important thing to remember is that ingredient lists are structured according to the quantity of each ingredient used, reading from the most present ingredient to the least. This means that the first few ingredients are particularly important as these make up the majority of what we are putting into our bodies. A good rule of thumb is to check whether or not the first few ingredients are whole foods.
(‘Whole foods’ refers to foods that are used in their natural state, i.e. that are not processed or refined in anyway)
If the first few listed items refer to sugars, hydrogenated oils, or refined grains, it is pretty safe to assume these food options are not healthy.
The number of ingredients matter!
Keep an eye on the number of ingredients used in a product. A lengthy ingredient list typically suggests a lot of highly processed ingredients. Think about an ordinary packet of crisps: the ingredient list is often long enough to be considered a book chapter – and that’s because it is packed full of stuff that your body doesn’t need or appreciate!
Beware of misleading marketing
It is no coincidence that the back of food packaging is used to describe the nutritional information – leaving the front open to using eye-catching and jargonised language in its attempt to grab our attention. Not only this, but the layout of the ingredients list and the font sizes are regularly chosen in such a way as to discourage customer reading and engagement – making it easier for these products to get by as ‘seemingly healthy’.
Nutritional labels do explain exactly what is in a product, but often the provided information only accounts for what you’re putting into your body if you consume half the product at a time. How often do you drink half a can of soda or eat half a chocolate bar? Take note of the grams per serving when making your foodie selections!
The sugar-free saga
The term ‘sugar-free’ is another method used by food producers to take advantage of folk trying to make health-conscious choices. ‘Sugar-free’ seldom means that a product is overtly healthy and the term is often used to disguise the wide variety of sweetness-enhancing substances that are largely poisonous for our bodies and can lead to long-term side effects.
Where to from here?
Now don’t let this get you down! Being more familiar with what goes into your food enhances the experience of preparing and consuming meals, and helps you to feel more empowered when selecting foods that support and sustain our bodies.
…and – what we can promise – is that, at All Things Earthly, we have already checked the ingredient list for you! In fact, we have even taken each of our products home and shared them with our families.
How’s that for quality service 😉