Food labels: what aren’t they telling you?

When it comes to lessons about food, we know that we are what we eat.

Food labels you are what you eat

But what if we don’t actually know what’s in the food we buy? How many of us trust labels that tell you they’re a ‘healthy option’?

Our healthy food guru and all-round excellent soup maker John warns that things might not be what they appear on food labels:

“It’s something I hear quite often,” says John (AKA Assistant Manager Catering and Events at Andover Leisure Centre). “People try to lose weight, and switch to the ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, ‘light’ or ‘reduced fat’ options – but they don’t see or feel any difference.”

And that’s because quite often there isn’t much of one – actually, foods marketed as reduced fat are quite likely to just contain smaller portions.

It may even go the other way. For example, low fat yoghurt is high in sugar (specifically, fructose) – an ingredient which very easily turns to fat in the body.
In fact, a 150ml serving of fat-free fruit yoghurt contains as much as nearly 5 teaspoons of pure sugar!

A healthy way to help weight loss is to check labels for sugar content. Sugar in some forms (such as glucose) are vital for the body, but the majority of the time we take in way too much of the bad kind without even knowing it.

John tells us, “It’s always shocking to think of hidden sugars in terms of their amount as pure sugar. To help you visualise it, take the number of grams in a portion and divide it by four. This will give you the number of teaspoons of sugar in a pure form.”

Nutrition label you are what you eat

A big problem is that a lot of people are grabbing food on the go, but don’t take the time to read what they’re taking in – so they end up going way over their daily guidelines.

“My advice is always to stick to unprocessed food where possible – so you know where it’s come from and what it’s got in it,” says John. “I know this isn’t always very practical, but it’s a really good idea to cook food from scratch when you can.”

Processed foods packaged as ‘health foods’ are also not to be believed, according to John. “Don’t fall for the hype – it’s very rare that these products have been proven to produce actual health benefits, and may contain as much sugar, fat, or even salt as foods that we know are bad for us.”

A balanced diet is still the way forward, it seems – we just need to make sure we know how to balance it.

“Make sure to take the time to read the labels in the supermarket. Quite often you can use the traffic light system to see at a glance what’s good and what’s not.
But be realistic with your portions. If you buy a sharing pack of crisps, are you really going to stop eating after the recommended 30g?”

John’s final advice is to make yourself more aware of what’s in products that you already eat regularly, and then see if you can find healthier replacements to help your body feel better.

You never know – it could make a big difference to how you feel, how you work, and how you perform in the gym. Make sure to let us know how you get on!

Andover Leisure Centre
The Rapids

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