Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nutritional 'No-how" Misleading Labels, and Lunch on the Run!!

Grocery shopping for healthy foods can be a real treasure hunt. This is particularly true when it comes to packaged items, and their misleading labels. Many items we automatically pick up-assuming the product inside is healthy.
We pick up a container of milk, for example, the label says 1%, we think we are doing the right thing for ourselves, and our families. Truth be known that 1% milk in reality is 18% fat by calories. Ouch!! The dairy industry marks it's product by volume, not actual calories. This is also true of the meat industry. A package of 93% lean ground beef, for example, is actually 45% fat by calories, (Nutrition for Professional, Jane Penz PhD 2008). Shocking.
It seems the United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA) labeling guidelines allow meat and poultry products, as well as dairy, to label fat content by volume, or weight, rather than actual calories per portion. We assume it is by portion. Also, by definition The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) guidelines for "low fat" is "a product containing less than 3 grams of fat." This allowed 2% fat milk, which actually contains 36% fat, to be labeled "low fat". The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) decided in 1998 to disallow this claim. Now the new claim is "reduced- fat." This still leaves our 1% milk to be "low fat", with a whopping 18% fat content. For further details visit www.cspinet.net/nah/junebeef.htm (Penz)
Other labels to be on the-look out-for are 'fat free" and calorie free." Items claiming to be "calorie free" can actually contain up to 5 calories per serving, according to labeling laws. "fat free" is even more misleading. An item containing less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving can be called "non-fat." This becomes even more troublesome when we over consume the product, believing the claims. Other shocker are "Promise Fat -free is 100% fat" and Pam cooking spray contains 1638 calories, based upon actual spraying time and sprays per can. Not even close to calorie free. For more information on this visit http://www.fda.gov/fdac/special/foodlabel/lite.html
Other grocery store label culprits are "whole grains." There are no rules regarding the amount of actual "whole grain" in any product. There could actually be very little in the product. You are best off to actually examine the list of ingredients on the item. The list of ingredient has to be listed from the most prevalent item to the least. So, a package of wholegrain crackers may actually be nothing more than processed flours stripped of all nutritional value, glued together by some trans fats.
Trans fats are one of the most dangerous culprits out there. These items hide behind labels claiming they are free of trans fats. How does this happen? The same labeling laws that govern the "fat free/calorie free" products govern these. Because the item contains less than 1/2 a gram of fat per serving it can be called "fat free"- regardless of it's content. Partially hydrogenated products are trans fats. these products turn oily foods into solid foods. They are used primarily in bakery items (cakes, cookies, pastries), margarines, edible oil products, coffee creamers, fast foods and many others. Read the label! These dangerous products are linked to many diseases. They have zero nutritional benefit.
With this said, what can you do? Well firstly read all labels carefully. Do the math. Make sure things add up on the side panels. Make sure you read the list of ingredients- know what is really in those items. Avoid store bought bakery items, eat home made items if you must indulge. You can select wholesome, natural ingredients to create a family treats. Eat fresh produce, or flash frozen. Limit these dangerous trans fats, get them out of your diet. It takes time and self-denial, but it is worth it. Even start by cutting the product with something healthy. An example of this would be using coffee mate with soy milk. It is a process.
As promised, I was going to offer some quick lunch ideas that are fast and nutritious.

carrots, peppers, celery, olives
1/2 cup of greek humous dip
whole grain pita bread or whole grain crackers
melon medley ( cantelope/ watermelon/ honeydew
This is a great to go lunch for at work. Lots of great veggies for something crunchy!!)

whole grain crust (Trader Joe's, or even a whole grain pita bead.)
sun dried tomatoes
fresh basil
fresh garlic
sprinkle feta cheese or soy cheese
place under broiler for a few minutes.

almond butter
apple slices
whole grain wrap
side salad with Newman's Own Raspberry Salad Dressing

wild salmon (canned, packed, left over)
mixed salad greens
Newman's Own Corn and Bean Salsa
Whole grain wrap

Tofu- marinaded in soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
Frozen oriental mix vegetables (broccoli, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, celery, carrots and red peppers)
(Fresh if you have a little more time)

Use a skillet and moisture cook the tofu in sauce. Add cooked veggies to mix, either the microwaved flash frozen ones or steamed fresh ones. Not very much sauce is required.

When in a pinch you can microwave the tofu with sauce, then add in veggies. Fast and nutritious.... pretty tasty,too. And you can do this anywhere that has a microwave!!

Lean Cuisine to the rescue
Select an option that has lots of vegetables and whole grains.
(I am partial to the Wild Salmon and Orzo)
add a bunch of grapes

It is important to keep healthy food options at work with you for healthy snacking between meals. Stay away from coffee, cola and that crazy vending machine!!

Next time we are going to discuss emotional eating and finish our nutrition series with summer fun barbeque style meals that are heart healthy and diet conscious. Any questions? Please, feel free!

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