Learn how to read food labels – it’s so important


As some of you know, during the month of October, I took the October Unprocessed pledge. I know some of you did also. How did it go for you? I’ve heard from some friends that they gave up processed for a week or for two weeks and in doing so, they discovered it helped them out a lot. The key for many was being prepared with their real food ahead of time. It helped them to keep on track and they felt they truly ate healthier which made them feel empowered that they were doing something great for their body as well as their peace of mind.

For me, it was amazing! In that 30-day pledge I gave up all processed food and only ate whole food. I was able to do so because in the past few years, in my quest to get and stay healthy I had already given up eating out of cans and boxes quite awhile ago. (And when I have slipped back into that “not so healthy habit” my body reacts negatively with either a weight gain or feeling sluggish).

By giving up all processed foods, without trying, I lost nearly 4 pounds effortlessly; and I believe it was my body letting go of some “hidden” things like water retention from the sugars and sodium that are typically used in the processing. It really is amazing what hidden ingredients can do to our bodies. Hidden meaning to me, when I open a container of “healthy” black beans or tomato paste, or vegetable broth, what am I really consuming that I can’t see and how will my body react to it?

Because I felt so great at the end of October, I’m am continuing to eat unprocessed. Why? Because I found out it really wasn’t that hard and the real food I make tastes awesome. I believe the taste buds on my tongue react now in a whole new way to flavors. And lastly, I saved money! Truly. Plus I had an added bonus. It cut down on the boxes, cans, and containers in my recycling bin – going unprocessed was just as great for the environment as it was for my body!

So, why is learning to read food labels so important? Because if and when I do pick up something processed, my goal is making sure that 1) the ingredients listed are actual “real food ingredients.” They are ingredients that I can read and understand what they are … and so would my grandmother); and 2) the food item doesn’t contain any of the following listed as one of the first five ingredients:

  • Sugars (the simple sugars)
  • Enriched bleached or refined flour (meaning it’s been stripped of its nutrients
  • HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Sodium
  • Natural flavors (mystery ingredients!)

Putting these bad-boys into our bodies causes our brain and our system to confuse our hormones and send out confusing messages about eating. Remember that non-fat foods tend to use lots of the above ingredients because it makes that food item taste better. It’s found in non-fat foods like: salad dressings, sodas, breakfast cereals, snacks like crackers, granola bars, etc., cans of chilies, soups, coffee creamers, non-fat milk, non-fat cottage cheese, non-fat yogurt …  etc. The trick is to start with the items you have already purchased and are in your cupboards. Take down a few of your boxes and cans of food items and check out the ingredients. What’s listed? Remember, when you know better, you do better and you will notice a difference.

Cheers, Karen

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