Thursday, February 11, 2016

Confusing food terms (part 2)

Alright, let's pick up from yesterday where I talked about about confusing food terms and what they really mean:  healthy, natural, fat-free, and organic.  If you didn't see it, pop on over here to catch up.

Today, I want to look at three more terms, and how you can make the best decisions when buying food.

A calorie is a unit of energy; energy we burn throughout our day.  Counting calories, and calorie restriction, is a popular way to lose weight.  In this weight loss plan, you want the calories in to be less than calories out (calories--energy--you burn through the day) and you'll lose weight.  There are two main points I want to make about calories.

1.  Eat enough calories!  Yes, this is the opposite of what your brain may think you need to do to lose weight.  However, too much of a calorie deficit will make your body think you're trying to starve yourself and it will go into survival mode and hold onto the excess weight.   If you are trying to lose weight, you might need to work with a professional trained in dietary needs.

When I had to give up dairy and eggs because of breastfeeding, I saw a dietitian to make sure I was eating the right foods.  The week before I saw her I tracked everything I ate and then brought the food journal to the appointment.  My expectation going into the appointment was that we would talk about the correct foods to eat. Instead, the first thing she said was that I wasn't taking in enough calories, I was floored (and excited because I got to eat more!)  After the appointment, I continued tracking my foods and I'm now at a point where I'm comfortable enough with what I'm eating that I no longer need to track.

2. Calories are not created equal.  Low calorie does not mean healthy.  2000 calories of Oreos is not equal to 2000 calories of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and grains. It's just not.  Tracking calories can be important, but make sure the rest of your diet is nutrient rich and balanced.  In the past, I've tracked my food with My Fitness Pal to see the calories I'm taking in, but also key nutrients, and the balance of carbs, fat, and protein.

Going back to talking about food labeling, I see a lot of 100 calorie snack packs on the grocery store shelves.  Don't get me wrong I'm all about snacking, but snacking the right way.  A 100 calorie snack pack sounds like a great idea, it's low calories, and you're getting a snack.  If it's a 100 calorie snack pack of cookies, it won't keep you full and your body running at it's best.  The low calorie snack may instead be loaded with sugar instead of nutrients. Just because it's low calorie does not mean it's good for you.

Be aware of calories, and what your body needs, be also be conscience of a balanced diet.

GMO (genetically modified organisms)
I'm going to keep this point fairly short because there's debate over whether GMOs are a gift from God, or straight from the devil.  To keep this post to a reasonable length, I want you to be aware of what the term means and then do your own research and determine if you want to eat GMOs or not. Foods that contain GMOs have had their DNA altered through genetic engineering.

To avoid GMOs eat certified organic foods, or foods labeled as non-GMO.  You are probably taking in some GMOs if you are not eating foods with one of these two labels.  The food labeling is a little tricky though, but it's not required in the United States, it's voluntary.  Here is a list of countries where labeling is required.

The first time instance I heard of a genetically modified food was a tomato engineered with fish genes. Now, I don't know if the tomato ever made it to market, but the idea really weirded me out, and prompted me to learn about GMOs.

Make the determination for your family if you'll eat GMOs or not.

Whole foods
No, I'm not directing you to shop at Whole Paycheck Foods, I'm referring to lowercase whole foods.  These are foods that are minimally processed.  I love this definition from 100 Days of Real Food, "Whole foods that are more of a product of nature than of industry."  I usually tell people to look for a single ingredient:  broccoli, chicken, brown rice, etc. (I'm going to just go ahead and say right here sugar may be a single ingredient, but there's a lot of processing to get it to be sugar.)

You won't find "whole food" on a food label because these foods usually don't have labels.

What should you do then with so many unclear terms, meant to draw in consumers to buy a certain product?  Be informed and read the labels on the back. Ignore the front of a product where the AMAZING CLAIMS are listed. Instead, turn towards the nutrition label and ingredients to determine if this is a food you should feed your family as part of a well balanced diet.

We are all making the best decisions we can with the information we have.  Happy eating!

So, did I miss any food labels or food terms you're curious about?  Let me know!


  1. You have an awesome content! I would love for you to share some of your post over at Healthy Living Link Party! It goes live Wednesdays, 7pm Central time until Sunday. Hope to see you there!


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