While I was ill last year, our food choices definitely weren’t always the best choices for us as a family and as soon as I was back on my feet earlier this year that was the first thing I wanted to get back under control.
It’s all too easy to slip into the ‘convenience’ rut where meals consist of easy components – chicken nuggets with chips and beans or mash and mixed veg became my husband’s signature dish last year when he was responsible for the majority of the cooking. And you know what? That’s an OK meal when it’s balanced with other, healthier options throughout the rest of the week.
But how do you know what the healthier options are when it comes to food? How do you know that the foods you’re eating are providing you and your family with the healthy balanced diet you want it to?
Personally, I look at the food labels of the things I’m buying when I do my shopping which sounds like it will make my food shopping into a mammoth task but it really doesn’t. I tend to stick to brands and foods that I know are good for us from buying them before so it’s only the new foods I want us to try that I need to do my little label review on.
I find looking at the labels on the food and drink we buy to be massively helpful because the claims that some products make on the front of their packaging aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be! A ‘light’ version of a product simply has to be 30% less calories than their full fat version, no added sugars doesn’t mean there is no sugars and can still include natural sugars’. Neither of these claims mean that the product they’re written on is low fat or healthy for you but at first look you would be forgiven for thinking that they are!
By looking at the labels I can make my own decisions and even though I’m not an expert, I know enough that I can make an informed decision about what I put in my shopping trolley.
The best guide I found online about looking at how to look at and understand food labels was this one from Making Sense of Sugar who also produced this video which I found really helpful when I was trying to get the hang of what I was looking for in a food label.
Basically I try and take as much of the information on the label into account as I can but the main things I look out for are calories, fat and saturated fat. Anything that’s too high doesn’t usually make it to the trolley although occasionally it will because ‘everything in moderation’ is OK with me.
For drinks I mainly take into account the calories and the sugars although I also look at the ingredients too and look to see if it contains caffeine and/or aspartame as that would influence my decision if I’m buying drinks for the kids. Not so much for me though! *hangs head in shame*
It’s not easy though and I’m not an expert so I’m just doing what I think is best for my family. I know some foods are labelled using a traffic light system and I’d love that to be industry wide so I could look at something and know that it’s passed the test of being ‘good for us’ according to some high up people somewhere.
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