Trick or Treat?

DCF 1.0

DCF 1.0

Make sure you are actually getting the treat you expect rather than getting tricked by misleading labels. You may be spooked by the actual ingredients list!

Several times recently, I’ve caught myself getting tricked by popular labels and buzz words. This usually happens when I’m in a hurry and do not actually read the ingredients list. In my haste I jump to conclusions based on the shiny wrapper with buzz words like gluten free, all natural or fat free. I could go on all day but we’ll stop here for this blog.

As a person with a wheat allergy and sensitivities, I usually stick to a gluten free diet. At first I was elated to find the growing collection of conveniently packaged items prominently labeled GLUTEN FREE. Well, now I’m spooked by the growing misconception that gluten free equates with being “healthy”. Companies are making bank by slapping a gluten free label on their products and they are not necessarily good for our health based on the ingredients list. While I appreciate the heads up with more prominent labeling and am thankful for the new labeling laws*, gluten free is not synonymous with “healthy”. Moderation and serving sizes are the key my friends. These items are processed foods and are typically not found in the perimeter of your grocery store. Many gluten free packaged foods are made with white rice flour and corn which contain very few nutrients. Also pay attention to the amount of sugar and unhealthy types of fat in these products because some products increase the amount to compensate for the lack of gluten. Let’s all become more vigilant in reading labels.

A widely used trick is the use of the “natural flavor” label which is often included right on the ingredients list. Really? My friends reading this are laughing now because they now this drives me nuts! This label does not mean it is natural or healthy. Artificial and natural flavors are manufactured in chemical plants. If it’s natural then why doesn’t it have parentheses and list the individual ingredients in the “natural flavor”? It may or may not be harmful to your health but it seems like a trick to me. I’ll pick a different treat with only a few ingredients that I can pronounce and I know where each of them come from in nature.

Treat yourself to some healthy fat! Don’t be tricked into believing fat is bad. We need it for our brain health among other things. Your body needs fat in order to burn fat for energy. Some fats are good for your health and I’d suggest that they be incorporated daily into your diet. Does your treat say it’s fat free? Watch out, check the label. It could be a trick! While it may be fat free, check the sugar content. Most fat free products dramatically increase the sugar and some introduce artificial ingredients. They do this to improve the mouth feel and flavor to compensate for the lack of fat.

Don’t get tricked when selecting your treats! Read the labels and know what you’re getting. Go for items with only a few ingredients that you can pronounce and you know the source of the ingredients in nature. Use moderation with processed foods and check the serving sizes. Be mindful when you eat but mostly…enjoy your food!

Have a fun and safe Halloween.

* http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm407867.htm

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