Summer of Healthy Eating Week 9: Clean Up Your Plate
There are a number of studies that highlight concern over ingredients commonly found in some packaged foods. Nitrites, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and the BPA in can liners are just a few. Sodium has been on the hit list for years. And for good reason: 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. According to the CDC, 77% of the sodium in the American diet comes from packaged foods and foods eaten away from home. So cutting back on packaged foods won’t hurt.
Just last week, the American Chemical Society published a study revealing that artificial butter flavoring (Diacetyl or DA) may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease in factory workers (who get way more than their share of exposure). Now, I’ve eaten a lot of that stuff in my life from movie theater butter popcorn to broccoli with “butter” sauce. Today I am much more conscious of the foods I eat. These are foods that I won’t buy now based on the sodium content alone but we all have to start somewhere right?
Start here to begin cutting back on convenience foods that may not be so great for you in the long run. Here are 4 simple steps to help you clean up your plate.
- Think twice if it comes with a food label. There are plenty of healthy packaged foods on the market. Think frozen veggies, milk, eggs, natural peanut butter, yogurt and oatmeal. All good. However, many packaged foods come with a big dose of sodium and a number of additives. Make it a rule to always flip over the package to see what’s really inside before you add it to your cart.
- Be a detective. Read the ingredient list. The nutrition facts panel gives lots of numbers and figures but you can really get to know what’s in your food by studying the ingredient list that appears just below. Look for whole foods to be listed and if you see a long list of chemicals, choose another brand or consider other options.
- Focus on whole foods. Don’t get all tangled up in label lingo. Focus instead on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean protein. If you do dairy, stick to low fat milk, yogurt and cheese and don’t go overboard. If it comes in a bag or box, check the label. Pretty simple, huh?
- Make your own. Make your own version of some common convenience foods:
- Instead of a packet of sodium laden taco seasoning, bottle your own blend of chili powder, cumin, garlic and onion powder and a sprinkle of salt. You won’t need that seasoning packet. I promise.
- Cook a little extra next time you make lasagna, soup or a casserole dish. Freeze the extras and enjoy ready-to-eat meals without all of the stuff you don’t need.
- Make popcorn the old fashioned way with the kernels and a pot or try the paper bag method – my favorite.
The bottom line: Not all packaged foods are created equal. Some are good, some not so much. Investing a few more minutes at the supermarket today may give you and your family many more days of good health.
I feel like I need to write more on this one. Stay tuned.
Image courtesy Dinner Series on flickr.