Tag Archives: FDA

Learning to Read Nutrition Labels: 5 Tips for Choosing Healthier Foods

When I first began losing weight, I had little to no food education. I just knew that “bad” foods made me fat and “good” foods helped me lose weight. For a couple of months, I ate all the same foods I was familiar with and just ate less of those foods. Over time, I realized that certain foods kept me fuller and had less calories, allowing me to eat more. This realization took only a few months. After this, I started to think more critically about food and its nutritional value. I enrolled in a nutrition class at college, and what I learned completely blew me away.

Agricultural corporations just want your money; they don’t give even two shits about your health and they will pay and/or threaten whoever is in the way to continue deceptively labeling your food so that you buy a brand instead of food items with nourishing ingredients.

This is going to be a sort of long post because I want to give the low down dirty business on food labeling and how to translate food labels. Food labels have their own language, guidelines, and rules, and it’s extremely important that those who wish to be healthier understand what all the evasive language, alternative names for ingredients, and unmentioned daily values really mean for our bodies.

1.) Low-fat or low sodium means it’s high in other buzzword nutrients or harmful chemicals… or BOTH! Food that is low in sodium, low in fat, and low in sugar does not appeal to the typical American’s taste buds, so companies advertise products as “low-fat” so that you’ll think it’s good for you when it’s really loaded with salt or sugar to help it taste better. Processed foods are notorious for this kind of trickery in advertising. Avoid foods that boast being low in any “buzzword” nutrients.

2.) Sugar can be named literally dozens of ways. FDA guidelines require ingredients to be listed from most to least. Fitspiring people generally don’t want to buy products that have sugar in the first few ingredients because it’s one of the most harmful ingredients in our food. What do food companies do about this? They alter the way they report the sugar in the food you’re eating. Sugar can be called things like “agave nectar,” “blackstrap molasses,” or “barley malt.” This tricks you into thinking there’s less sugar in the food you’re choosing.

3.) Sugar is a carb, but the FDA doesn’t require it’s percent daily value to be labeled separately. On any food label, sugar is listed under the carbohydrate category. The food label gives the percent daily value of carbohydrates, but the percent daily value of sugar is not required to be printed on the label. How is this harmful? If a food item has 8g of carbohydrates (3% daily value) and all 8g of those carbohydrates are sugar (just over 33% daily value) then you’re being led to believe that you’ve only consumed 3% of your daily sugar intake because sugar is just a carb, right?

4.) Chances are that your protein bar has more sugar than protein in it. When trying to help my not-so-health-obsessed boyfriend pick out a granola bar for breakfast, I took him to the breakfast aisle and told him that he could not buy any granola bar with less protein than sugar. Whey protein or soy protein taste is most easily covered by sugar. We found ONE box in the whole breakfast aisle that had more protein than sugar. Astounding! The same goes for protein shakes.

5.) The fewer ingredients, the better. In all, foods that have a short ingredient list, foods that don’t require nutrition labels (like vegetables and fruits), and foods that don’t have commercials are going to be the best foods for you. Try replacing one item at dinner, like your pre-packaged macaroni shells, with a food that has no commercial.

Just keep in mind that simple is better all the time. When in doubt, make it yourself so that you know exactly what’s in your food. Do you find logging your recipes difficult? MyFitnessPal has a function on their app that allows you to manually input all the ingredients you used in your meal and compile it into an entry for you! They even save it for later.

Keep in mind that these are things I learned over a long period of time. They don’t happen overnight, and they won’t be knee-jerk reactions as soon as you read them. Just as we learned unhealthy habits from childhood until now from our friends, family, and advertising, we must unlearn them. Just try to make one healthy choice at a time and add on when you feel like you’ve mastered it.

Stay happy and healthy!

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Sneaky Sugar is the Enemy!

Sugar is a substance that causes cravings, encourages the storage of visceral fat, and is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. Companies that sell products with added sugar and high fructose corn syrup want you to believe that fat and salt are the main causes of weight gain, but that’s simply not true. Companies like these encourage us to “get up and move,” but they would never encourage us to eat less sugar because that affects their profits. If you want to learn more about sugar and how it’s killing America, check out Fed Up, a documentary featuring some of my favorite foodies and narrated by Katie Couric. It’s on Netflix! Be prepared to get enraged.

Check out the trailer here:

The average American woman should not consume more than 6 teaspoons (25g) of sugar per day, and the average American man should not consume more than 9 teaspoons (37.5g) of sugar per day (AuthorityNutrition). Daily, the average American unwittingly consumes 19 teaspoons of sugar per day. Added sugar is hiding everywhere, even in our ketchup, because it tastes great and it’s cheap. It’s the easiest, most cost effective way for brands to grab our taste buds’ attention and keep it. Currently, sugar is one of the only nutrients not required by the FDA to be quantified by a percent daily average on food labels. Deceptive labeling (as well as the fact that sugar can be called just about anything, such as agave nectar, barley malt, and blackstrap molasses) can trick Americans into eating more sugar.

Ge-Seedy-Crackers-Nutrition-Label

http://www.keepitrealfoodcompany.com/our-products/seedy-crackers/

Sugar does not have to be harmful for us. In moderation, and with the right combination of nutrients, sugar can be great! Fruit contains natural sugar but also has fiber in its skin and pulp, which helps us to break down sugar more slowly; however, soft drinks, fruit juices, candies, baked goods, and foods labeled as “low-fat” or “low-sodium” contain copious amounts of sugar and should be avoided. The first step to avoiding added sugar is to read labels. Foods like granola bars, cereals, sauces, condiments, and juices that claim to be healthy are responsible for much of America’s unhealthy sugar intake. Start small by eliminating or replacing one high sugar food from your typical diet and continue improving from there.

Sugar is highly addictive, and I did have and STILL have a huge problem with it. It seems like one cookie or one slice of cake at a party sends me into a huge downward spiral of compulsive sugary eating. When I think back to how I got started, I remember feeling so ashamed for eating entire bags of Hershey kisses (which isn’t even that great tasting to begin with, just full of sugar) or for making an entire pint of ice cream disappear while eating television. Lately, I’ve become sort of a food activist who is looking more closely at the marketing and psychology of the habits I’ve formed. I’ve been marketed to and prepared for this kind of lifestyle from early childhood until now. Not only that, but I grew up in the South where everything fried is standard and sweet tea is a staple.

The good news is that I have the power to reshape my habits and form my own ideas about what’s good food now. This past month, I made a bet with myself that I could eat healthy every single day, come in under my calorie goal, have minimal “treats,” and not miss a day of exercise. I did it. This weekend, I partied and had whatever I wanted to eat. It was delicious, but it was hard to bounce back from. However, after just one day back at my normal lifestyle of eating small meals with low sugar, I realize that I have formed some wonderful eating habits over the past 4 years.

That fact, over all else, makes this whole journey worth it. Do I care that I have loose skin or that I’m STILL 25 lbs away from my goal weight? Sure. Yeah, that bugs me sometimes, but you know what? I’m physically healthier and more fit than a lot of the skinny minnies who walk into the gym with me. Most importantly, I can run circles around the old me. The old me couldn’t even run.

What is my advice to those attempting to create healthier lifestyles? Take one item in your typical diet like soda or high-sugar granola bars and eliminate it or replace it with something lower in sugar. Even without watching calorie intake, a change to eliminate sugar should catalyze fat loss. Try it!

Installing a Pacemaker to get rid of your Pacemaker?

It came to my attention that recently the FDA approved a device that is essentially a pacemaker for your stomach and esophagus which sends electrical pulses to interrupt hunger pangs. The device has been tested in real live humans, and the FDA approved it. There are multiple reasons that this device and its approval are completely flabbergasting me and enraging me. The approval of this device was conceived in greed and will exacerbate the laziness and instant gratification mindset of our entire nation. In a place where 3/4 of the population is overweight or obese, this device is a far cry from the solutions needed to make our nation healthy.

The first problem with this device is that it most likely made multiple people affiliated with the FDA a little richer. It’s no secret that the FDA has repeatedly made decisions that do not benefit the public’s health while it does benefit their members’ wallets. Check out Food Inc. and tell me that you don’t think the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries had anything to do with this or the thousand other ways the FDA presumes to treat obesity without attacking the source of the problem: what we eat. Someone was paid well to pass this design and approve its use.

How do I make the assumption that the approval of the device was the product of corporate greed? In an experiment testing the effectiveness of the device, called Maestro, the placebo device performed almost as well as Maestro as far as total body weight lost in 100 patients. NBC news stated, “The FDA wanted the device to be 10 percent better, on average, than a placebo but has approved it anyway.” The experiment was safe enough, but did have many adverse side effects that are usually included in any Pepto Bismol advertisement. Well, yeah, an electrical device that pulses through your stomach and esophagus when you decide you feel hungry… wonder why? Seriously.

Let’s talk about how effective this device would be at sustainably reducing weight in its hosts. NBC wrote that the device would only be available to those who had tried weight loss programs and failed with a BMI of at least 35 to 45 points, but they would also only qualify if they also had an obesity-related health issue like heart disease or diabetes. Okay, cool, we’re narrowing it down, but this device will do jack-diddly-squat for heart disease and diabetes. The device only controls hunger pangs, not the actual kind of food you put in your mouth. If you only eat 500 calories a day but that 500 calories is always a nice greasy burger, you’re still going to have heart disease. Hate to break it to you, but skinny people get heart disease and die of heart attacks too! The device also wouldn’t stop you from eating only 500 calories worth of doughnuts a day and remaining diabetic. One more blow to your lower abdomen: skinny people are diabetic too! This device, this Maestro, only addresses calorie intake and not actual health. It will literally do NOTHING for someone who isn’t consciously making the decision to eat healthier foods.

This device also only intercepts hunger signals, not depression or boredom, so emotional eating and boredom binging are totally still on the table. Not only that, but Maestro is controllable by its host, so you can choose when you’d like to be hungry. Presumably, anyone could develop an eating disorder and use Maestro to reject their basic instincts saying, “hey, feed me before I eat all the necessary visceral fat around your vital organs and send you to the ER!” The device will not address any issues with food addiction or overeating. It will simply allow its hosts to ignore hunger. That is useless.

Needless to say, someone just invested a whole lot of money into something that will be completely obsolete and will cure nothing. Sure, it may help some people lose weight for a while, but it won’t teach them how to make better food choices or how to plan meals for weight loss.

This time, money, and energy would have been better spent by the FDA in trying to figure out how to get their heads out of their asses and their hands out of agriculture and pharmacy’s pockets long enough to figure out that they’re killing us all one dollar at a time.

Gee, thanks.