Labels/Eating Clean, Part Two

Recently, some friends mentioned that they’d overheard two mothers saying to their children:

“You can have ice cream, but only after you finish your fries.”

“No chocolate milk today, have a Diet Coke instead.”

Photo courtesy of "Svadilfari"

Is it fair to say that there is an issue out there with perception of what is healthy? With all due respect to parents who allow their kids to drink soda, please read the label closely and see for yourself. According to health, the eight downfalls to consuming soda are pretty drastic and are as follows:

1)   Soda is neurotoxic, especially   diet soda which contains aspartame (once in the human body, aspartame breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Methanol is a wood alcohol poison that, when heated above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (the human body temperature is 98.6 degrees), converts to formaldehyde. Aspartame is also an excitotoxin that builds up in the brain, and can excite brain neurons to the point of cell death).

2)   Headaches and other symptoms.

3)   Soda is acidifying (it's actually one of the most acidic substances humans ingest).

4)   It's caffeinated which then makes it an addictive substance triggering stress hormones.

5)   It increases risk of obesity.

6)   It increases your toxic load with a list of not-so-sexy ingredients such as: Artificial coloring, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate and citric acid.

7)   Increases risk of heart disease.

8)   May contribute to metabolic syndrome (a cluster of disorders including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and hormone resistance).

Photo courtesy of "danorth1"

However, poor perception of what is healthy doesn’t always appear to be the consumer’s fault. We’ve become so overwhelmed by sneaky in-your-face advertising and catchy words to entice us like ‘diet’, ‘low fat’, ‘reduced sodium’, ‘real fruit’ and ‘sugar free’ that we stop right at the packaging and assume that what we are eating won’t harm us. There is also something to be said about the brand names we’ve come to trust over the years. Because we’ve used them for so long, we assume that they’ll never change; this is quite the contrary. Consumers need to get in the habit of checking the list of ingredients on the label for a better idea of what they are eating.

Besides looking to the label for the list of ingredients, another great way to stay healthy is to take the time to prepare home cooked meals. Since our lifestyles have become so fast-paced these days, a lot of people feel that making meals at home just isn’t feasible anymore. An article in The New York Times Mark Bittman also points out that the most frequently used excuse for not making home meals is: I don’t have time. The article then goes on to say that “In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.” Just something to think about.

Photo courtesy of The Irish Labour Party

I think that there is a need for balance and I think that consumers need to take the control back for the sake of their health. We need to take the blindfolds off and become conscious of our food. It sounds like a silly example, but feeding a plant with Coca Cola on a daily basis would seem completely absurd; we should apply the same principle and care when it comes to our bodies. Check out a great list of the many benefits of clean eating according to Livestrong.

Another thing that seems more common these days is food intolerance; whether it’s a gluten intolerance, allergy to corn, allergy to dairy- I sometimes contemplate if it’s our body’s way of telling us “I’ve had enough!” and the foods that we were never meant to eat may in fact be causing these intolerances. I found an awesome site called ‘I told you I was sick’ that’s worth checking out; it describes food additives like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, food dyes, preservatives, sulfites, soy, caffeine and the many health issues associated to them.     This list of symptoms makes reading food labels worth it.

Photo courtesy of Oli Shaw

Clean eating is actually quite easy. As food activist and author Michael Pollan puts it: “Don't eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."     Eat whole food and eat often. Here are some tips in getting on the clean eating train:

  • Don’t count calories (check out this link for an explanation)
  • Choose whole, natural foods (nothing processed or anything that comes in a package, unless it’s a bag of veggies of course)
  • Steer clear of sugar, salt and fat
  • Eat good fats every day (olive oil, coconut oil, avocados)
  • Eat frequently: five to six small meals a day to keep your motor running
  • Don’t drink your calories: go for water or unsweetened tea. I add a couple splashes of pure cherry juice to my water and I actually end up drinking more throughout the day.
  • Get that heart pumping- exercise is essential

Another tip (and this is just something that I go by) is to eat when you’re hungry.   Nothing is worse than a growling tummy- it leaves room for a slowed metabolism and irrational food choices. Personally, I become moody and can’t focus when I’m hungry. This is also why I’ve never been one to stay on a diet for more than a few days.   Clean eating is a lifestyle; you actually get to eat real food without putting unrealistic expectations and pressure on yourself. It’s all about reprogramming the way we look at food and getting down to basics when it comes to ingredients.

Be sure to check out the Clean Eating website for some inspiration.