We hear you, sister: The “health” claims on food labels plus the always-changing news of good-for-you food makes choosing the best foods and eating them in the right amounts a confusing endeavor.
Food marketers are smart. They know you want to eat healthy and they know you want your family to eat healthy, so they make food packaging as sexy as possible.
Wander down the “health” food aisle or step foot in Whole Foods and you’ll see nothing but packages with gluten-free, soy-free, organic, dairy-free, fair-trade, or non-GMO slapped proudly on the front.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with choosing food with these claims. Some of us are allergic to dairy, soy, or gluten, but it’s important to remember organic cane sugar is still sugar, (sugar is gluten-free, by the way), and gluten-free chips are still potato chips.
The real-deal information is found on the back of the package. Not sure what you’re looking at? Here are a few things to remember:
Be mindful of portion size
We’re not calorie-counting fanatics here at Nourish + Bloom. Instead, we’re big supporters of eating mindfully. So, even though that bag of chips is gluten-free, that doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free. A pack of muffins might be labeled organic or non-GMO, but that label doesn’t make it fair game to eat all six at once.
Pay attention to how many servings are in that package and be mindful of the amount you put into your body.
Snacks are great, but if their only purpose is to give your mouth something to do, you may need to re-think about your relationship with food. Are you using food to fuel your wellness? Or are you using it as a hobby?
Ingredients are important
If you’re allergic to dairy, finally being able to eat some yummy yogurt without hurting your tummy is a huge win. But that dairy-free yogurt is made of something. What is that something?
If it’s mostly sugar, go back to rule one: be mindful of how much you’re eating.
Also, foods that are sugar-free or gluten-free may also be full of extra fat, (which often means lots of extra calories), or even chemicals to make it taste better. If you’re uncomfortable with ingredients you can’t pronounce, then you can choose a different product.
Part of being a mindful eater is to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
Calories are calories
If you want to lose weight, you’re going to have to go back to that first rule: be mindful. The basic math equation for weight loss is to make sure your calorie intake is less than your output. In other words, you should burn more energy than you eat.
What you put into your body has a much bigger impact on your body composition than your exercise routine. If you eat too much of anything, you can gain weight—that includes protein shakes, as well as pizza and doughnuts.
So, choose foods that are high in protein and fiber so you stay full. Hint: fresh fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and are always gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free. (A soybean is a legume, FYI.) Also, choose foods that make you feel good. If you’re energized and moving, you’ll know you’re making the right choices.
Diets suck, we know, so choose foods you’ll know you’ll enjoy and eat enough. If you’re constantly eating food you don’t like, or you’re hungry, weak, and tired all the time, there’s no way you’ll stick to anything longer than a few weeks.
Bottom line: be mindful of how much you’re eating and choose energizing foods.