The health industry, diet culture, and food industry love to market foods as healthy because it means we will buy their products and trust them enough to continue to do so.
What does it mean when you see “low sodium”, “low fat”, and “sugar free” on food labels? More importantly, what are you putting into your body? Well, we are going to touch the surface of these things to help you navigate the buzz words. I hope this article helps you to start paying attention to what is in your foods and encourage you to take back control over your choices in what you eat. In today’s world of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, it is vital to remember that you are the primary gatekeeper of your health.
The Rule of 20
Let’s start with an example most of us are all too familiar with. Your doctor said you need to cut back on salt or high fat foods, so you start looking at things like low sodium soups or low-fat yogurts. These may be better options for that one ingredient, but don’t be too quick to trust. Look on the nutrition facts to check for extra added fats, salts, or sugars, because often when one unhealthy ingredient is decreased another is added. One such example is low fat yogurt, where the added sugars tend to be higher.
Here lies the importance of reading the labels. When doing so go by the rule of 20. If health compromising ingredients such as sugars and saturated fats are more than 20 grams per serving, then that food is not a healthy food. Additionally, food should not have more than 500 mg (1/4 teaspoon) of sodium (salt), per serving. If you start to pay attention to these key ingredients, you will truly empower yourself to choose healthier foods. This will help prevent and or manage disease more successfully.
“In today’s world of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, it is vital to remember that you are the primary gatekeeper of your health.”
“Original Form Foods”
Another very important concept in developing healthier eating habits is to choose foods that are in their most original form. Meaning, that you want foods as close to fresh off the farm, as possible. For example, make a seasoned baked chicken breast rather than pre-made chicken pot pie or some steamed broccoli, rather than broccoli and cheddar soup. In the above examples, what was added to the originally healthy chicken and broccoli, has now compromised the nutritional value and health benefits they started with. For many people, it is at this point where I hear “I don’t have time to cook”. A solution is to keep things simple and use foods that do not require a lot of cooking. In other words, eat fresh fruits and veggies. Other ways to keep things simple is by choosing a salad or grilled or baked veggies. Remember the cost if the convenience, when it comes to nutrition and food, is often your health. When you go out to eat, the restaurant cook now has more power over your disease prevention. By choosing a quick gas station snack, you just gave the Doritos company influence over your long-term wellbeing. Health is much too high of price to pay for convenience.
The last, and arguably most difficult concept, is your mindset and taking ownership of your nutrition. This tends to be the most challenging part. A good place to start is by evaluating your relationship with food and identifying the emotional responses you may have toward it. You can then begin to separate those emotions and look at food for what it is meant to be, which is simply fuel for your body. By accepting ownership of your health and the choices that impact it, you begin to value your health. When you value your health, you will then begin to view good nutrition as an investment rather than a chore. I encourage everyone to get excited about the freedom we all have, in choosing healthier options. Get out there, read the labels, and get involved in your nutrition. Big changes are made with small consistent choices.