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Reading Nutrition Labels: Devils In Disguise

In my local newspaper this morning, there was an article about reading nutrition labels and the danger of hidden ingredients (read the article online here). When trying to lose weight and eat healthy, one of the very first things that people always say is "read labels!" Well, thats all well and good as long as you know what you are looking for. Otherwise, reading the label is just going to be an exercise in pronouncing things that sound like they belong in your high school chemistry class.

This article takes on a few seemingly healthy items, and then breaks down exactly why they aren't as good for you as you may think (boooo). They start with applesauce. Their claim is that applesauce has been cooked and mashed to high heaven, so pretty much any vitamins have been lost in the process. Also, many applesauces have tons of added sugar. I tend to disagree with this one, mostly because if you think about what you would be eating in place of this so called "bad" applesauce, it is likely much worse. I think the main thing to recognize here is that 1) fresh fruit is almost always better. Nobody has done anything to your apple (except sprayed it with fertilizer and pesticides), so you pretty much know what is in it. The second lesson is 2) look around for options. I recently got some unsweetened, organic applesauce (I can hear your mouth watering) on sale for 50% off at Safeway. It's list of ingrediants is apples, water, vitamin C. It does still have lots of sugar in it, but fruit has natural sugar, so I'm not stressing.

The next food they take on is granola (stay tuned for my homemade granola bar recipe later in the day, in somewhat contrast to what I'm writing here. Come on...I can't be perfect. I looove me some granola). Granola is really not very good for you, contrary to what many label non-readers think. It is often packed with sugar, which makes it very high in calories. The article states that granola cereal often has more sugar than Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp, and the like. Also the serving size is really small, so it is easy to eat lots and lots of sugar/calories without really feeling satisfied.

I'm going to skip over a few of the ones listed in the article, although I would highly recommend reading the whole thing, and go straight to the Acai Mixed Berry Juice. I was really interested in Acai (pronounced a-sigh-EE) until I tried it. Last year I ran a half marathon, and at the end they have all these booths with free stuff like food and beer (?) and things. One of them was a stand with Acai juice, which gets all kinds of health accolades and is a super trendy new food. Let me just be honest - it was disgusting. I had just gotten done running for 2 hours, and pretty much would have eaten anything, and I could hardly even choke it down. So, I had to address this one because of how gross it is, not necessarily the health aspect. Perhaps V-8 Fusion would be better, because the article brings it up on account of how much added sugar it has, but I wouldn't recommend it. Blech!

All in all, the main point of the article is to be aware of the ingrediants that you are being fed, whether knowingly or not. Like the beginning states, it is one thing to dive into a piece of cheesecake and not really care that it is not so good for you. It is another thing entirey to be watching what you eat and trying to be aware and healthy, and get dupped into thinking you are making good chioces. Things like "reduced fat," "half the calories," and "all natural," to name a few, don't have a great basis for health claims. Reducing the fat or halving the calories only means that the regular version is REALLY bad for you, and all natural really doesn't have any kind of regulation, so it cna be used in a variety of not so natural circumstances.

Good luck on your nutrition label reading! It is a feat in and of itself.

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