Healthy food backgrounds

By Tanya McCausland of Home Cooked Healing

I always recommend buying fresh, whole foods at the farmer’s market, but every now and then I might reach for something out of a box or can. The problem with these packaged foods? They’re not always as healthy as their labels claim to be. Here are five common food labels to be cautious of:

“Gluten Free”
More and more we’re discovering that breads and other baked goods contribute to putting on a few pounds but we’re reaching for gluten free products instead. However, these are often sugar bombs and still loaded with carbs. If you’re looking for a sweet treat reach for a piece of fruit with peanut butter or a square of organic dark chocolate instead.

“All Natural”
This label is found on everything from deli turkey to cranberry juice and when we see it our brain immediately thinks “healthy!” But, proceed with caution. “All Natural” is a term not regulated by the FDA and companies can add it whenever or however they want. Many chemicals and other weird substances are considered “natural” but you would never want to eat them!

“Trans Fat Free”
Trans fats have gotten a bad rap and rightfully so. They are a highly processed fat that has been linked back to obesity, heart disease and other serious health problems. However, there is a loophole that states packaged foods can use this label if there is “less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving.” That means if you eat two or three servings of those cookies it’s likely you are still consuming this highly damaging fat.

“Cholesterol Free”
This label is one of the most misused and once you start looking for it you’ll be amused. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, not in any fruits, vegetables, nut, seeds or beans. But, companies have no problem adding this label to foods that don’t have any cholesterol to begin with, like dried fruit and nut butters.

“Sugar Free”
We’ve been warned to get the “white stuff” out of our diets and food manufacturers tried to help us out. When you see this label there can still be some sugar (0.5 grams or less) in that food. To still satisfy our sweet tooth artificial sweeteners are used instead like aspartame, which have been linked to cancers and diabetes. Use raw organic honey and real maple syrup to sweeten plain yogurt and oatmeal.

About this Contributor: Tanya McCausland is a Health and Culinary Coach in Alameda, CA She inspires, encourages and motivates her clients to create a life of health and balance through delicious food and simple lifestyle changes. She believes that our kitchens have the ability to heal – we just have to stock our pantries with real food and not be afraid to wield a wooden spoon every so often!