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Reading labels

January 29, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
Saturday was our big grocery day and we managed to stock up on lots of things we were out of, including fresh vegetables and fruit. I spend a lot of time in the grocery store reading labels. When I started reading labels years ago, I mainly focused on fat grams and calories. That has changed over the years; however, and now I look for much more. I not only look at the numbers, but I also read the ingredient list. If I don’t recognize something on the list, I pass on it. A few things that I look for include, of course, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. If either of these are anywhere in the ingredient list, I try to find another brand of the same product that doesn’t have them listed. Partially hydrogenated oils are created by a process that forces hydrogen molecules into oil, rendering it able to remain solid at room temperatures. The process causes the molecules to become misshapen and these shapes are called transfigurations. It is from this word that we get the nickname, trans-fats. Trans-fats were once believed to make it possible to enjoy the taste of butter without taking in gobs of artery clogging cholesterol, but they are now known to be just as bad, if not worse for our hearts than saturated animal fat. Recently a new form of hydrogenated oil has entered the scene. On some labels we find the words, fully hydrogenated. Fully hydrogenated oils also have hydrogen molecules forced into them, but they don’t leave the oil molecules oddly shaped. For this reason, some scientists and nutritionists believe they are safer to use. I am a skeptic. It was once believed that partially hydrogenated oils were good for us too, so I am not being so quick to get excited. Although I am reading ingredients, I am still checking out the numbers, including fat grams, fiber and now also protein and sugar. While I prefer to see less than four grams of sugar per serving in anything I buy, I have gone as high as seven or eight, particularly in yogurt. It is difficult to find yogurt with a low sugar content. I also look for high protein numbers. In some cases, I add extra whey protein to recipes if an extra boost might be needed. Finally I look at the fiber content in a recipe. Food that is high in fiber will take longer to digest and help stave off hunger, not to mention all the good things fiber does for digestion. I like to see more than 3 grams of fiber in any serving, but more is better, so I always look for the high numbers. Since following the MyPyramid program, I haven’t paid much attention to calories. By keeping the Pyramid plan recommendations in mind to balance my meals with grains, meat and beans, milk, vegetables and fruit, as well as making healthier choices at the grocery store and in restaurants, I was able to see a noticeable difference in the scale over the past 11 days.

Monday was workout day so for my pre-workout snack, I had a Kashi TLC Honey, Almond, Flax bar. By the time I got to my office for my usual post-workout breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, I realized I had forgotten to bring bowls to mix my breakfast. Instead, I used a mug, which worked just fine, but I added a bit too much water to the oats and they were runnier than I would have liked.

For lunch I made a sandwich of whole wheat bread, sliced turkey, Swiss cheese and spinach leaves with two teaspoons low-fat mayonnaise and a bit of mustard. Along with the sandwich, I had a half cup serving of unsweetened applesauce. Also had a bottle of water with a pouch of sugar-free iced tea to give it some flavor.

It was a busy afternoon and there wasn’t much time for a snack, so I tossed some Kashi cheddar crackers on a plate and picked at them while I worked.

Dinner was quick because I got home a bit late. Instead of cooking, I had a frozen meal, also made by Kashi, pesto pasta primaver and milk.

When I look back on my day, I see that I didn’t have enough food, but am assured days like this will be balanced with other days when I go over those limits.


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Pre-workout snack: ½ ounce grains; 50 discretionary calories