Do you know that the average 'healthy' yoghurt drink contains more sugar than an entire bar of dark chocolate? If you do : congratulations, you have figured out the insidious ways the food marketing deceives you and your longterm health. If you don't, read on to be enlightened and motivated to take matters into your own hands.
As a convicted anti-diet activist and body positivist, I will never tell anybody how or what to eat. Do you want to eat pizza every night: please enjoy and don't you dare feel an ounce of guilt about it! The scale does not define you! It is however a proven fact that nutrition has an enormous impact on your life quality and even the way you think, so if you do choose to change your food intake, and you choose to do it for the right reasons it can have an enormous beneficial impact on your mind and body. BUT, I repeat, you need to do it for the right reasons, you need to choose the right goals in order to do this in a balanced and joyful way. (and not in a restriction diet-guilt-repeat misery kind of way)
I personally choose true nutritional foods over junk every day, not because I want to be a size zero, but because I want to feel energetic and sharp-minded, because I want to take care of my body, have fun with it, live long and healthy, be present for the ones I love, etc. Starting from this perspective, I have done years of research, watched tons of documentaries, talked to loads of nutritionists and developed as such my own, balanced view on how I can nourish my body but without having to lose the pleasure of scrumptious desserts or warming comfort foods. No fad diets here, just common sense paired with a very critical view on the food industry.
It sounds pretty easy at first: choose true nutrition and avoid junk. And despite what all the conflicting messages around food may say, it actually is...But what has blown my mind away is how little the people around me are truly aware of what is junk and what is nutrition. And I get it ... If you don't have time or interest to do the research (most people don't), all you can do is get your information from the food manufacturers. It would be nice if they were actually trustworthy, but in today's society, if I could give you only 1 piece of knowledge, it would be this: the food businesses are set up to make money, not to nourish you or make sure you live a long prosperous life. They want you to consume their brand and consume lots of it. That's their baseline and that will always be the most important thing. More important than your health, more important than ethics. This has lead to a very sad reality: consumers, you, are constantly being misled by smart marketeers and lobbyists. I will give you just a tiny sample of the food deceptions of our time some paragraphs below.
In a world in which 80% of your supermarket is nutrition-poor, and btw where the average apple has much less nutrition than 50 years ago (study link), we really need to take extra care of getting sufficient vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies functioning smoothly and avoiding illnesses.
I like to ensure that all the foods I eat contain essential nutrients that my body can use to thrive: vitamins, minerals, fibre. If a food does not have any of these, I call it 'empty calories'. They give you calories, but barely anything more. Empty calorie foods are for example: white bread, supermarket cereals, corn, soda, refined sugar, store bought cakes, supermarket chips, margarine etc. Of course I still eat these foods from time to time but I make sure it is in addition to my 'normal' nutritional food, not instead. If you feed your body with these empty calories only, you will feel eternally unsatisfied on a physical level. You will get your calories, but you'll never feel quite 'full', this explains all kinds of unwanted cravings people get.
I have loads of scrumptious, balanced recipes using whole foods, avoiding all kinds of nastiness, without giving up the least bit of yumminess. In addition to all the health benefits and energy I get from eating this way, I love the creativity of this kind of cooking. You never cease tho surprise friends and family.
1) Foods not being what they seem-at all.
-A disturbingly large percentage of imported "pure extra virgin olive oil" is actually diluted with cheaper, highly refined oils such as soybean, corn, and canola to cut costs and increase profits. These are oils that are too high in omega 6 and disturb the natural omega 3 - omega 6 balance in the body. All those benefits you thought having from using olive oil? ....Gone.
- Grated parmesan cheese is almost always fake and FDA tests found that some even contained 9 % wood pulp.
-Ground coffee may be cut with leaves and twigs, as well as roasted corn, ground roasted barley, and roasted ground parchment. Instant coffee may include chicory, cereals, caramel, more parchment, starch, malt, and figs.
These fraud practices are estimated to happen for about 10% of the processed foods in our stores and are not enough inspected. Extra awareness of which brands are trustworthy is necessary.
2) Foods openly claiming to be healthy, while they are scientifically proven not.
Lots of people are proud when they replace their soda for an apple juice or cranberry juice. It's very sad to say that store bought orange juice, 'multivitamin' juice and what not, are just sugary drinks with little traces from the fruits they came from. They flood your body with sugar just as much as a soda would. In addition, the juice is almost always pasteurised, which means: heated very high, a process which removes the vitamins and minerals for the most part.
- Fruit yoghurts
Most of the companies just put a tiny amount of real fruit in them (1-2 strawberries,maybe..) and the rest of its taste comes from artificial aroma's, sugar or its worse counterparts: maltodextrin, fructose corn syrup, etc.
-Yakult or other so called probiotic drinks
This was a tough one for me, as my mother - who of course only meant well- gave me this for years every morning as a healthy start-of-the-day drink. Guess what, the second biggest component of yakult after water is sugar... It has a whopping 17 grams per 100 ml, which is more than a coca cola would have. How would you feel about drinking a mini coca cola every morning? The third biggest component is dextrose, which is... just a different kind of sugar. To this very sugary drink they add skim milk powder -which is questionable in itself but I won't go into the details- and then they 'ultra heat" it. It has been proven by microbiologists that ultra heating of milk proteins alters them into proteins that our body does not recognise and illicit an immune response. Drinking this on a daily basis can overstress your immune system and can inhibit the natural growth and repair occurring in the body. Drinking our probiotics in sugar laden, ultra processed drinks encased in plastic is not the best method in hindsight...
If you look at the nutrition facts for rice crackers, there is no fat, no fiber, only minimal vitamins and minerals, and maybe 1 gram of protein. They are marketed as the light and healthy cracker for the conscious eater, but the truth about rice cakes is this. Rice cakes are little more than refined carbohydrates (which are quickly digested and converted into sugar) that have been sprinkled with salt, and possibly sprayed with some artificial flavoring. Their glycemic index, an indicator of how a food affects blood sugar, is 82. Compared to sugar which tops out at 100, it is pretty high... Instead of taking your mind off of food, snacking on rice cakes on an empty stomach can induce a spike in blood sugar that might just leave you feeling sluggish and craving, you got it, more rice cakes.
-Kellogs special K and other breakfast cereals
Most people understand that "choco puffs" and "froot loops" or "honey smacks" are bad news for health. But then you have these versions that go like "high in fibre" or "slimmer waist", and they are marketed pretty directly, right? If you take the add literally then it goes like this : eat special K and before you know it you'll be a super thin, happy, model-looking person, always smiling, sitting at the perfect kitchen table in the perfect house. This truly is a bummer. I guess if you're used to eating froot loops for breakfast and switch to special K, you'd be smiling a bit more. A bit. Otherwise there is no reason whatsoever to introduce this processed cereal into your diet, most of the so called healthy cereals are still too high in sugar, full of processed carbohydrates, artificial additives and barely have any nutritious whole grains, hence giving your body very little vitamins or minerals to thrive on.
3) Specific labels on foods being deceptive
This does not mean all that much, because it's not a legally binding term that is being controlled by some organism, so there is lots of room for interpretation. Some may contain preservatives or be injected with sodium, like in the case of raw chicken. Some natural products will even contain high fructose corn syrup, and because its derived from corn, companies will argue that it is natural... Well, think again.
- "No sugar added"
You may think your blood sugar levels are safe while eating a product that has this labeled on it, but again they are often not what it seems. Some companies add pasteurised apple juice to get that addictive sweet taste, and this actually acts like pure sugar in the body. Others may add maltodextrin in addition, which creates an even higher sugar response in your body than table sugar.
- " No transfats"
Food manufacturers can claim this even if the food actually contains trans fat. If the total amount of trans fat is less than 0.5 grams per serving, then the nutrition label can legally state that the product contains 0 grams of transfats... If the company decided that an average serving -of a probably highly addictive food- is 30 grams (mostly these portion sizes are underrated and people eat much more of it), then if you are eating 100 grams of it, you're getting 1,5 grams of transfats in your body. Doctors agree you should get below 2 grams a day of transfats, needless to say it is outrageous that a 'no transfats- labeled food can easily get you over that limit.
If you're still reading this, then big congrats for coming this far! I've only touched the tip of the iceberg here and I could fill a whole book of examples. For many people it is hard to fathom the reality of our food industry. It's a bit like the Wild West nowadays in the supermarket... The rules are taken lightly, so better watch your back...
Overwhelmed by all of this? Don't worry, you can skip all the tedious research. I can easily guide you through this, so you can make an informed choice about what you want to put in your body.
For most people however, the very first and most important step to take before even thinking about food is getting rid of the 'diet mindset'. For 95% of the population, dieting fails after 5 years.. Trying to follow some set of food rules, backfires because it causes us to fundamentally disconnect from our bodies.I offer my 3x3 method to help with food cravings and reconnect with your body for free! Just click here and read on!