Ways to tell if the food we eat is healthy

Many of us do our best to stick to a healthy, balanced diet but with complicated packaging, confusing food labels and misleading marketing campaigns, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes the foods we think are good for us can in fact have hidden ingredients that boost the calorific value and undo any of the nutritional benefits we thought they provided. With a little know-how, we can all learn to understand the packaging and various techniques used by the likes of supermarkets, so we can finally shop with confidence.

Be wary of percentages

Labels usually give you a percentage that should represent the calorific value of a serving in relation to your recommended daily intake. This however is based on an ‘average’ person consuming 2000 calories per day but in reality, our height, age, gender, fitness level and usual diet will all affect how many calories we need. Moreover, the figure given is often based on an unrealistically small portion, meaning we can be misled into eating far more calories than we believe we are.

Look at the ingredients

Rather than rely on basic numbers and percentages, you are often better off consulting the ingredients list. This will tell you exactly what is in the product in weight order. Spotting things like syrup and hydrogenated oils will immediately alert you to the presence of added sugar and fat.

Know your food groups

It can be too easy to dismiss foods based on generic words such as ‘fat’ or ‘sugar’ which we associate with an unhealthy diet. The reality is that our bodies actually need both of these things; the difference is just the type we need. You should be on the lookout for unsaturated fats, found in the likes of nuts and fish; as these are a much better choice than the saturated kind found in such products as butter, cakes and chocolate. Likewise with sugar, the natural kind found in fruit and natural fruit juices are good for us in moderation, whereas sweets and puddings have artificial, added sugars.

Educate yourself

If the issue of nutrition is something you are truly passionate about, why not take your interest to the next level and educate yourself on the matter. This way, you will have a solid understanding of the importance of a balanced diet and how best to obtain one but better yet, you will find yourself in a position to even pursue a career in food, where you can use your new found knowledge to produce your own food, improve labelling standards or pass on your skills and insight to others. By actually working in the industry, you can help both yourself and others to get access to a healthy diet.

Misleading slogans 

You are bound to have noticed the various slogans that appear on a broad range of different products and while some of them, such as ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ have minimum standards the goods must meet to be able to brandish such claims, others such as ‘farm fresh’ or ‘natural’ have no such regulation and are little more than common advertising techniques used to suggest positive imagery to consumers and encourage sales. Unless you can confirm the validity of a statement on a label, don’t allow yourself to be drawn in by it.

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