Ok, so this cartoon cracked me up. Too true, unfortunately! I didn't mean for this series of blog posts to drag on so long, but a lot has been going on in our life and therefore blogging about nutrition hasn't exactly been a priority. But I wanted to share some things I've learned about ingredient checking before I finished up the series.
Once upon a time I only checked prices. My mom taught me young about unit pricing and I was the price CIA. I'm still serious about grocery shopping on a budget, and I do actually go to two grocery stores with my Little Rascal every week so that I can save money (Aldi rocks!). The extra effort is worth it to me.
Now, I'm the ingredient CIA. Every item I pick up off the shelf of the store I scrutinize. It's incredible what they sneak into innocent food. By doing some extra work and checking out ingredient lists and learning what to look for and avoid, you can take steps to helping your family become healthier.
There is a general health concept that says, "Don't buy anything that has more than 5 ingredients." Now, whereas this is a little stringent, even perhaps legalistic, the principle is good. Every look at the ingredients on a loaf of bread, for instance? They can stretch on for miles! Or tried to buy a can of just tomatoes? Sometimes you have to check two or three cans before you get one that has just tomatoes, water and absorbic acid (Vitamin C) in it! Kinda bizarre. Many extra ingredients are often added to processed foods to make them stretch farther, and to preserve them longer. I get that - from a money-making-manufacturer perspective. But that doesn't mean I have to buy it that way anymore as a housewife. So the first thing I check is how many ingredients there are. If I were going to make bread it would have yeast, water, sweetener, flour, and salt in it (maybe milk and eggs, too). So what does this loaf of bread on the shelf of the store have in it besides those essentials?
Bread may be a poor example because in order for it to stay fresh they have to add those extra ingredients, but it actually works for me because it's a good example of why I'm working on finding good, easy recipes for homemade bread, tortillas, etc. Fruit juice might be a better example. So many juices are chock full of ingredients besides the simple juice and water. I look for the pure juices without added sugar and preservatives and flavors.
Next on the checklist is anything that is non-food: dyes, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives like high-fructose corn syrup(originally from food, maybe, but too processed and too harmful), MSG, BHT & BHA, and sodium nitrate (research more on your own if you want a more exhaustive list). My goal in cooking for our family is to provide food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Anything that is not food to begin with, or processed to the point of being a non-food definitely gets the scratch.
Finally, I look for the quality of the ingredients used. Is sugar high on the list? Do they use sugar alternatives like honey and molasses? Are whole grain flours the primary flours used?
By just taking the time to scour food labels and switch brands on some things you can eliminate quite a few unnecessary ingredients from your family's diet and take a healthier turn in your eating.
Does this mean I never buy any of those things? Unfortunately not. In a perfect world, my husband would never ask me to buy chocolate syrup, which is laden with high fructose corn syrup, and I would always make wonderful homemade bread instead of buying the 40 ingredient kind, and we would be perfectly content without ever eating a bag of potato chips or a Jack's Frozen Pizza. But it's not a perfect world, folks. So we make little regular changes and choose to have a healthy lifestyle perspective and give ourselves grace when we choose to splurge.