Small steps #2 - Label reading for beginners

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Learn how to read labels in a few simple steps to improve the nutritional value of the food you feed your family.
Later in this series there will be an article about advanced label reading. We're starting simple here.
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labels margarine and butter
Diana
29 January 2019
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Label reading

Label reading is very important. Through the list on a label you can see what the ingredients are. With that you can choose the best options for you and your family.

When you look at the two labels in the image, you can see that one of them has a lot more ingredients than the other. Do you recognise all of these ingredients as food? Do you know whether they are good for you? 
When you buy products it is good to make sure that the products you buy have short ingredient list or are ingredients.
The long label is margarine, the short one is butter. I do not recommend anyone eating margarine as it is a heavily processed product. But more about that in another post.

High to low

When you read a label, what comes first in the list is the ingredient of which the most in the product. What is at the end of the list is the lowest in there and is therefore often not very much. This way you can choose better what type of ingredients you are comfortable with and which not. 

Empty calories

Be aware of empty calories. When you see that sugar is one of the first three ingredients, this means that this product is very high in white sugar. If it isn't white sugar it will be named. The industry tends to use the cheapest product and white sugar is cheaper than any of the better sweeteners. 
The industry also tends to use white salt and white flour, simply because they are cheaper ingredients. When it is whole grain flour, it will be named on the label.
Either way white sugar and white flour are calories without nutritional value. So try to find products that are higher in nutritional value. Artificial sweeteners are not a good alternative as they are chemical and not natural.

Additives / Chemicals

Many of the products you buy in the shop are loaded with all kinds of chemicals. Industry made chemicals that is. Those were not in our food until fairly recently. Before about WW2 we would mostly be able to only buy ingredients. There were of course bakeries and such. But still most products were ingredients. There were no microwave meals.
So there was no need for all kinds of preservatives, flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, anti-caking agents, anti-oxidants, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, food acids, humectants, foaming agents, mineral salts, thickeners and gums, flour treatments, glazing agents, gelling agents, propellants, raising agents, bulking agents, to name some.
People cooked food and ate their home cooked foods.
Not all of the those additions are necessarily bad, some are made from natural sources and are fine, but many are chemicals. So when you don't know them it is best to avoid them. 

There are apps out there that will shows you which of these additions are in which way harmful or not. I have used several different E-number apps for that over the years. They give you quite some good insight into what is not too bad and what is really bad for you. These days I try to avoid processed foods altogether if I can as in general I just don't want any of those. I feel better when I eat more natural foods with fewer additives.

 

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