- Now with 50% more wholegrains!
- 99% fat free!
- No artificial colours or flavours!
- Only 1 calorie!
But the truth is that these are all marketing ploys designed to make us believe that a product is healthier than its competitors.
Not all products that are found in the health food aisle are actually healthy. Often if something is marketed as low in fat for instance, it will be high in sugar to make up for the flavour lost from reducing the fat content.
The main thing you need to remember is that (in general), real, whole foods are a healthier choice compared to anything that comes in a packet.
But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be informed about what makes some products a better choice than others.
So we need to read the nutritional label. Yes this is hard and confusing sometimes, but here are some tips to navigate that little panel on the back.
#1 check the ingredients list
- If one of the first three ingredients is sugar (or glucose, fructose, sweetener etc), give it a miss.
- If there are lots of funny words that you don’t understand, give it a miss.
- If the ingredients list is as long as your shopping list, give it a miss.
Here’s an example.
You will notice in our 28 Day Diet and Exercise Challenge that we often recommend Mountain Bread as a healthy wrap or side to your meal.
The ingredients list for the natural version of the wrap is (in order of largest proportion to smallest) organic wholemeal flour, organic wheat flour, filtered water, and salt. No sugar added, no strange or unpronounceable ingredients, and only 4 ingredients in total.
#2 check the per 100g column
This gives you information on the product as a percentage. So if it says 19g of sugar per 100g; that means that no matter whether you eat one biscuit or five biscuits, you will know that these biscuits contain 19% sugar. Which makes them a less than healthy option.
Manufacturers like to offer the nutritional info as a ‘per serve’ column as well, based on what they consider ‘one serve’ of their product to be. The trouble is, they may consider one chocolate biscuit to be one serve, so the nutrition information doesn’t sound too bad when you are looking at the figures for just one biscuit. But we all know that one biscuit often leads to another, and another…
#3 Keep to the recommended amounts
There are ideal amounts of sugars, fats, and sodium (salt) that you can aim for while you are trying to lose pregnancy weight or just wanting to follow a healthy eating plan. Again, look at the per 100g column:
* SUGAR: 5g or less sugar per 100g.
If the food contains fruit or dairy, the limits can be more like 10g-15g sugar per 100g, as the sugar occurs naturally in the apple or yoghurt for instance.
* SATURATED FAT: ideally less than 1.5g per 100g; but realistically aim for less than 5g saturated fat per 100g
* SODIUM: maximum 600mg sodium per 100g.
Things like bread you would expect to be around 400mg sodium per 100g. In an ideal world we would aim for 120mg/100g but you would be hard pressed to find many products under that, as our society has become more accustomed to savoury flavoured foods which have added sodium.
Going back to our Mountain Bread example.
The stats per 100g:
- Sugar: 2.3g
- Saturated fat: 0.4g
- Sodium: 450mg
#4 Use your head
Anything that comes in a packet needs to have been processed in a way to ensure that it can last on the shelves for a decent amount of time, so it will contain some preservatives that real food does not. Compare that to a piece of fruit that will only last a week or so in your fruit bowl at home.
So if you are choosing a product as a treat, then by all means use the above guidelines to make the best choice.
But when it comes to choosing foods as regular snacks or components of a meal, you are much better off choosing real, whole foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit, vegetables, meat, yoghurt, milk and cheese.
Still not sure exactly which foods you should be eating in order to lose pregnancy weight?
Why not join our January 28 Day Diet and Exercise Challenge.
Let us do the hard work for you! Every meal and snack is outlined in detail with recipes and shopping lists, making it easy to make a healthy choice every time.
Need to stock up on Healthy Mummy Smoothies? Then see our shop here
And join our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenges here