The First Step to a Mindful Diet: Reading the Ingredients List
It’s no secret that nutritional facts and food labels are misleading. Reading the ingredients list of any food is enough to make your head spin.
We don’t know what “all-natural” means and there’s so much contradicting information on which kinds of foods are healthy and what’s not.
And although “sustainable” is a trending buzz word, what does it really mean in regards to our diet?
This article is to clear up some of the misconceptions.
Here are some things we do know:
“Whole foods” are better than processed foods.
Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.
Think a baked potato instead of potato chips, or whole grains over refined grains.
Whole foods — like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes — retain their fiber as well as the whole portfolio of beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that are often removed in processed foods.
Less = More when it comes to ingredients
To find foods that are as close to whole as possible, you have to read the ingredients. This in itself can be like trying to decipher an ancient code written in a dead language.
But, there are some tricks of the trade that we want to pass along.
In general, look for the product with the shortest ingredient list.
Take a look at the peanut butter picture above as an example.
It’s a good idea to avoid things with “added sugars” or unhealthy processed oils (especially palm oil, which is also horrendous for the environment).
Speaking of the environment…
Keep sustainability in mind
In a perfect world, we would all grow our own food and trade with those around us for what we didn’t have. But, the world ain’t perfect and that’s ok!
In order to cut back on the environmental impact of our food there are a few things we can do:
Buy as close to the source as you can
We understand that not everyone has the luxury of strolling down to the local farm and picking up organic produce. If you can, awesome! If you can’t, try buying foods that were grown at least nearby.
Almost every food label in the country displays where the food originated from.
If you live in southern California and the avocados are from Mexico, that’s pretty good. Maybe skip the pears grown in New Zealand.
Buy what’s in season
Buying in season veggies is generally a good sustainable option. If you have no idea what’s in season, check out this great guide.
A lot of supermarkets have started to highlight sustainable seafood options, which is fantastic.
You can also ask the folks working behind the counter; you’ll be surprised at the knowledge some of them will drop on you.
You can also check out this comprehensive guide to sustainable seafood.
To sum it all up, a little ingredient reading goes a long way. In general, less ingredients is the way to go but you can’t beat buying whole foods.
It’s best to stay away from added sugars, unnecessary oils, and words that you can’t pronounce/don’t understand.
As far as meats go, the best advice we can give is to eat less. Factory farming is disastrous for the environment and too much meat consumption is linked to a whole slew of illnesses.
Reading the ingredients is the best way to understand what you’re eating.
“All natural” is a buzzword. Read the Ingredients label
Whole grains over refined grains
Flour over “unbleached flour”
Ditch the “added oils”
Support local when possible
For more information, here’s an article from Healthline that is a great resource for learning more.
If you want to get started on a healthy meal right this second, we recommend this delicious salad!
And remember, reading the ingredients list is a learning process. If something feels off, note it, and ask questions.