Ah, the glory of morning, filled with the sun’s first rays, sweet cat snuggles, steaming mugs of coffee, bursts of optimism, and bowls of warm oatmeal laced with delightful things like niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and thiamin mononitrate. YUM!
(I kid, I kid – those are B vitamins, folks.)
There used to be a time when the majority of my food came stuffed in boxes and bags, crammed into cans and jars, and loaded with lots of non-vitamin unpronounceables (trisodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate, and disodium guanylate, I’m looking at you), but over the years I’ve become a lot more concerned and conscious about what I’m sticking in my body. I read Fast Food Nation. I watched Food Inc. I met people who taught me about GMOs and high fructose corn syrup and organic foods. I switched to a mostly vegetarian diet. I even learned how to control what was once diagnosed as IBS, but is actually a really freakin’ annoying gluten intolerance.
But if I’m being honest with you (and myself), right now I really want to race down the street to the Del Taco and order three classic tacos and then eat them in my car in the parking lot. Like – really want to do this. I’m not perfect. There are things in my pantry that are bagged, boxed, canned, and jarred. There’s a half-eaten bag of sour gummy candies on the counter. There’s something vaguely unidentifiable that’s coated in permafrost lurking in the back of my freezer. Last weekend, I ate my body weight in pesto.
But for all of those things, the fruit bowl on my counter is always full, I declared a moratorium on snack size Almond Joys (replaced with peanut butter on banana slices), and I finally weaned myself off of Trader Joe’s Fritos ripoffs (replaced by, um, joyful almonds). Small victories, my friends.
In this spirit, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of my most consistent eats and see just how well I’m doing, per this Foods Badge requirement:
#6. Copy or bring five examples of descriptive labels from food products for display at a troop meeting. Learn what information you should look for on a label to help you make wise selection.
Here they are (click on the image to make it readable, unless you have the ability to read .00025-sized font) – and let’s include the oatmeal label above, too:
Not too shabby!
The ubiquitous Nutrition Facts labels became mandatory in the United States starting in May 1994, as part of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. The FDA published a handy guide to understanding food labels, so that’s a good place to start if you’re wondering what all of those numbers mean. They’re based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is exciting news, since I’m pretty sure I’m kickin’ it to the max every single day. Let’s dig in, shall we?
1) Serving Size – This is the one that gets ya. Do you know how many times I’ve looked at a package of (gluten-free) cookies, only to notice that the serving size is 1? ONE stinkin’ cookie?! ONE STINKIN’ COOKIE THE SIZE OF A CANADIAN DOLLAR?! Jerks. For me, the most disappointing serving size in my sample here is the hummus – two tablespoons is about the amount I’d normally glop onto two baby carrots. I mean – 10 servings in that tiny container? You are out of your mind, hummus people. On the bright side, I think the cheese takes the grand prize here: one fourth of that container equals one serving! SERVE ME YOUR CHEESE!
2) Well, except….oh, Calories – Yeah, there are 110 calories in that serving of shredded parmesan. To be honest, I bought it because it was the cheapest organic shredded parmesan at Gelson’s, but it really sucks. It’s very…rubbery. How tiny little filaments of cheese can be rubbery is beyond me. Failure, Organic Valley. I don’t want your stinkin’ calories. I’d rather spend those calories on two heaving helpings of hummus, thank you.
3) Nutrients – The top section of the Nutrition Facts label is the stuff you’re supposed to limit (fat, cholesterol, sodium) and the bottom section, stuff we need to get more of (fiber, vitamins). While the rubbery cheese castoffs win in the calcium race, it’s oatmeal on top with strong showings of Vitamin A, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Iron, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6 & more! (Trust me on this, since I didn’t take a photo of the entire label). It’s probably a good thing I’m starting my day off with this instead of the popcorn, which has nearly no nutritional value (but plenty of emotional value).
4) Percent Daily Value (%DV) – These are based on that 2,000 calorie diet I mentioned earlier; 5% of something is considered low and 20% of something is considered high. Oh, peanut butter. You also have a measly two tablespoon serving suggestion…but oh, dear lord – even if I adhered to that (which I don’t), you’re occupying 26% of my daily fat intake, and 15% of that 26% is saturated (bad) fat. Can I just ignore this one? What peanut butter? I never mentioned peanut butter.
5) Ingredients – Yes, it’s true: the ingredients are listed in order from what’s in there the most to what’s in there the least. The first ingredient for all of these items makes complete sense – oatmeal, milk, chickpeas, popcorn, oats. But perhaps it’s the second ingredients that really tell the tale: Peanut butter – organic expeller pressed palm oil (no trans-fats or cholesterol, but you still want to limit processed fats in your diet), Cheese – salt (that’s all this cheese tastes like, actually), Popcorn – expeller pressed sunflower, canola and/or safflower oil (see above), Hummus – fat free pasteurized milk with live & active cultures (ah – that’s the greek yogurt!), and Oatmeal – sugar. Dammit, oatmeal!
Nutrition Facts labels are both your friend and your foe. They offer up a wealth of information about what you’re putting in your body…even if it’s not the information you were hoping for (look at that bottled beverage you’re drinking right now – it says 2 servings, doesn’t it?). Don’t just fixate on calories when you’re shopping for foods – look at the vitamin content, the fat content, the ingredients listing. The more informed you are, the more control you have.
So there’s my mini tour of Shawnté’s Cupboards. What kinds of things live in yours?