I have been reading a lot about food labels and giant food companies and ingredients they use to keep us coming back to buy their products. A real eye opening article was in Eating Well magazine called The Whole Grain, Reduced Fat, Zero-Calorie, High-Fiber, Lightly Sweetened Truth About Food Labels. It was a shocker to me because I consider myself to be a good reader of labels and the food giants are trying to outsmart me! They put the research into knowing what colors are going to appeal to “healthy” eaters and how to make it difficult for me to read ingredients and what labels to put on the front of a box to get me to pick it up. Then they know if I pick it up the chances of me buying it are high. An example of this is that they make claims on the front in green, a color people associate with health, they write the ingredients in capital letters because this makes them harder to read (really, they have studies to back this up!) and then they will throw on a word like flax and I will be sucked in. That is where the nutrition panel comes in and it has become what I go to first on products. Even then it can be confusing so I have a great app to use that will help you make good decisions. If you have a smart phone go to your app store right now and download Fooducate. Seriously. Right now. It is free and a fabulous resource. You simply scan a bar code and it rates the food with a letter (A-F) and tells you what is good or bad about it and gives better alternatives, if there are any. You can scan a couple items and compare them side by side and you can even track your health within the app. Plus it is kind of fun to scan things in the grocery store!
Now the second half of this is about the ingredients companies are using to get us addicted to their products. Yep, addicted. I am reading Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. It is incredible what companies put in their food to make it taste good and have a long shelf life. Many products being sold (think of things like prepackaged meals or sides, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, pasta sauce, etc.) were originally produced to be occasional indulgences, but that doesn’t make money for a company. They want you to buy their food every week, if not more. They spend millions on research to figure out the right combination of ingredients to make their product addictive. Did you know that when a human eats sugar the same areas of the brain that create the high from cocaine are affected? Check out the article Sugar in National Geographic. The average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar a year, or 22 extra teaspoons every day! Go to your sugar bowl and measure out 22 teaspoons. Yikes! Along with the many health risks of eating that much sugar (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.) it will also sap your energy. No energy means it is hard to work out and then once the initial high wears off you go back for more sugar!
Companies catch on quickly when consumers change their habits. When fat became the enemy they simply took some out and added in more salt or sugar to keep their products tasting good. These three ingredients are what people crave and they will always be in abundance in processed food. Food giants are only interested in their bottom line, not your bottom! When you go to the store shop smartly and be good to yourself. If you put chips or cookies or ice cream or crackers or frozen dinners or prepackaged sides or sweet cereal, etc., in your cart you are saying to yourself that you, or someone in your household, are going to consume those products. An occasional treat is ok, but measure your portion! I keep measuring cups very handy so that my husband or I can use them to eat only a 1/4 cup of dried fruit or nuts or a 1/2 cup of ice cream or use two tablespoons of peanut butter or measure a cup of cereal. I know many people like the convenience of packaged food and the time saved. It doesn’t take much, though, to fight back and take control of what you put in your body. Before you buy that bag of Oreos, ask yourself if you want the food giants to win!
So what is a good, non-processed snack? Here is a link to a whole bunch of ideas that are quick, delicious and only about 100 calories. Plus here is a recipe for a super fast and yummy dinner that can literally be on the table in 20 minutes! (I use baked tofu instead of shrimp).
Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
2 Tbsp Tamari (or low sodium soy sauce or Bragg's Amino Acids)
Splash of sesame oil
2 splashes of vegetable oil (grape, canola, olive, etc)
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of one lime
1/2-3/4 LB cooked shrimp
1/2 seedless cucumber, chopped
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
Whisk together first 5 ingredients. Add shrimp and cucumbers and marinate about 15 minutes. Just before serving sprinkle on sesame seeds.
You can serve this on top of the lettuce like a salad, or wrap the mixture in individual leaves for wraps.