I am not saying I’m perfect – late night frozen pizza on the weekends may or may not be my guilty pleasure. But if it hadn’t been for finding ways to enhance my athletic performance, I’d still be blindly shopping the food isles without so much as a glance at a nutrition label. Educating myself on ingredients has led me to abandon most of my former favorite foods which was sad at first. However, after switching to low or no processed foods, they don’t even taste good to me anymore.
It is one thing to allow sodium laden, trans-fat filled, corn syrup loaded, and petroleum colored “food” as choices, and another one entirely to allow manufacturers to deceptively “fortify them with vitamins” and label it as healthy. Between being bombarded by processed products that are falsely disguised as food in the grocery aisle and the cheap fast food on every corner, we don’t stand a chance.
I could go on and on about our food system but it is easier to just keep it simple. I have a list of ingredients I avoid completely and make it a rule to only shop the outer perimeter of the store. Luckily, by avoiding most of the isles in the middle, you also avoid the most harmful processed foods. All the fresh meat, dairy, and produce surround them and, aside from choosing hormone/pesticide free, they are most likely your best choices.
Should you decide to venture down the cereal or snack aisle, I encourage you to read the ingredients on every label. If there are more than a handful listed, or if you can’t pronounce something, keep walking. Here are the most common culprits to avoid:
Trans fats – manufacturers are now required to eliminate trans fat from products but are still allowed to use it if it is under a certain amount per serving. In order to get around this, they usually just make the serving size smaller. Look for partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredients and stay away from this heart killer.
Sodium – It is no secret that we love salt. But many processed foods have an unnecessary amount hidden away which increases our intake without our knowledge.
High fructose corn syrup – It’s nothing more than cheap sugar. It is in everything and I do mean everything, from breads, beer, and bacon to cereal, spaghetti sauce, and soft drinks. This sweetener upsets the metabolism and increases the risk for diabetes. No thank you.
Artificial colorings – Isn’t it nice when the color of your food makes your eyes glimmer? Not when the additive that makes it look so pretty is linked to tumors, asthma, and ADHD.
There are countless preservatives beyond these that are used in our foods. Obviously, the government is doing nothing to change things. So, we’re on our own. It’s up to us to choose what we put in our body.