Who’s Making Your Family’s Health Decisions?
Often when we do things daily such as eating, it becomes routine and automatic. Our grocery lists become pretty routine and when we go out to eat we go to the same places and order the same things. We become mindful as we become more aware when it comes to selecting food and some of the key nutrients we hear about are getting enough calcium and fibre in our kids diets as well as how yogurt can be a great source of probiotics, etc. We see lots of health claims on the front of boxes of food in our stores such as “source of fibre”, “natural”, “real fruit,” etc. We make decisions based on these claims and what we know. Often someone may think that this snack bar doesn’t seem very healthy but it says it’s a good source of fibre so as long as you or your child is getting fibre from it, then it is acceptable.
One thing that is certain, whole foods should make up the diet and processed foods should be minimized as much as possible. Why then, do we buy and consume so many processed foods? (The average Canadian consumes 50% processed food in their diet). What has made us think that we need a specific nutrient and that these nutrients are more readily available or easier to get from something processed, rather then a whole food? Where are these beliefs coming from? Are we making these decisions or have they been cleverly ingrained into our culture by our billion dollar food industry?
Below is a list of some claims and beliefs that do not equal health but have been sold to the general public as necessary and have influenced the way we eat and choose our foods. I hope to shed some light on this subject and help to empower us to make choices that are best for us, our family and our health, that comes from our own inner knowledge that has been suppressed and silenced in the name of profits for others. As consumers, we always have the choice of where we spend our money and our money is the deciding factor of what the products are on our shelves at our stores. Lets start making decisions for us, our health and our family’s best interests and challenge the food industry to provide us with foods that build health and not an illusion of promises that leave us unhealthy.
- We are being studied – the food industry performs studies as part of its marketing in order to influence our choices. They may look at things such as certain wording, addition of nutrients, natural, etc. anything that makes us stop and buy their product. It can all be considered an illusion to us, these are just marketing gimmicks and the products are not intended to make you healthy. Let’s take juice for example – the CEO of the company is not thinking “we need to help parents get more servings of fruits and vegetables into their children’s diets..” and running with that plan! It is more like “if we say this is 100% fruit juice (even though it’s highly processed, contains only fruit sugar and offers no real nutrition) parents will think they are making a healthy choice for their child, pretty much any child will drink juice (because it’s mainly sugar) so this will sell our product.” They are making sales and convincing you that you need their products, not creating products to enhance health and wellness of the consumer OR the planet. It’s something worth thinking about.
- The need for specific nutrients – when it comes time to start solids, many parents get overwhelmed with what foods to introduce and what nutrients to focus on. A great example is calcium – a slogan that “Milk does the body good” produced by the dairy industry to sell their products has somehow become a standard practice in our culture. The first thing I like to point out here is that – we need ALL nutrients, not just specific nutrients. The best way to get a variety of nutrients and cover your bases is through whole foods, the nutrients work synergistically so the body can get maximum absorption. Dairy isn’t a whole food (unless
consuming it raw), it is very processed and it is making up large portions of our diets. Many people are convinced if they don’t consume dairy or give it to their children daily, they will not get enough calcium. Does this make sense? If we don’t consume a processed food daily we will be malnourished? Does this sound like it’s in our best interest for health or for profit of our food industry? Recently the Canada Food Guide eliminated the dairy food group because it should never have been considered a food group. Fibre is another great example, it can be found in so many whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains – yet when we see this claim on the front of a box of granola bars, are we really getting fibre that is benefiting our health? Or is the claim of fibre because the product contains rolled oats misleading because the processing of the food and other ingredients outweigh any nutrition that the product contains? How often are we grabbing these products for our children thinking that they are acceptable because they contain a little bit of something we think is important? Often these foods do the opposite of what we expect.
- Moderation – this word was surely invented by the food industry to give us permission to eat whatever we want. Eating foods that destroy health are not ok in moderation. This keeps us moderately unhealthy. If you feel like something, own that it isn’t good for you and you choose it anyways, that is your choice and that is an important fact to consider. When we blanket unhealthy food with the word moderation – we un-regulate it, eat it way too often and use “moderation” as an excuse.
- Very loose rules on health claims and promises – we see so many catch phrases, key words and claims on the fronts of boxes and packages throughout our stores. We see all natural and we think that sounds like a good wholesome choice or 100% fruit – so it must be healthy, etc. But these claims are just marketing gimmicks to get our attention and sales. The regulations are very loose and hold little to no merit. The truth is in the ingredient list – that is what you are getting. Save your time and always go straight to the ingredients. Remember that if a company is going over and beyond for quality ingredients – it will be on the package and mentioned in the ingredients, if you have to make an assumption – it is guaranteed not to be true, just “influenced” by clever marketing.
- The big 3 – when it comes to reading labels, most people know that the order of ingredients listed goes from what ingredient the product contains the most of to the least. We are told to look at the first 3 ingredients as that is what most of the product contains. Do we know that the food industry knows this and often tries to pick foods that sound better (such as “wheat flour” which is simple just unhealthy white flour) and even manipulate the ingredients so the order may not be what it seems? First of all, when looking at the ingredient list, ALL ingredients are equally important. Even those few ingredients at the end. If you don’t know or understand what these ingredients are, skip the product or do a quick search online (use your phone) and investigate – what you put into your body matters. The natural and artificial flavours often found at the end of the ingredient list are often the most harmful ingredients. Okay back to to the first 3 ingredients…..a couple of big tricks that our food industry does is use different sources of sugar so they won’t have to list sugar as the number one or two ingredient and use fruit concentrates as sugar because when we see fruit, we think it’s healthy – but it’s just sugar (plus they can use different fruits to split up the ingredients so sugar isn’t listed as number one).
Every single thing that you see on a package has been studied and marketed to us in order to make sales. It is up to us to empower ourselves by making what is in our food our business and using whole foods to achieve our nutritional goals for us and our family.
If you would like to know more about maneuvering through our grocery store products or what foods will provide you and your family with optimal health, please visit my consultation page.