What does your typical breakfast consist of?
Are you an eggs and toast breakfast master? A grab-and-go breakfast bar muncher? A cereal and milk monster? Do you really look at the things you’re eating?
How many of you chose a “healthy” option for breakfast (or any other meal for that matter) based on the claims on the box?
Do you know what these claims actually mean? Do you know how to read a label?
Now, this is not a post about advocating pre-packaged foods. Not at all; where possible, eat real, whole food for the best results on your health and well-being. This post is about making sure that YOU, as the consumer, know what you’re really eating.
The whole thing that got me thinking about this was when a client explained their shock to me that a colleague of hers was having Breakfast Biscuits” as part of her “healthy eating”. I looked up these breakfast items and I am shocked at the nutritional content to say the least. Here it is (per 1 x 12.5g biscuit):
Carbs: 8.2g of which sugars: 3.5g
The biscuit also contains 30% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E, Thiamin, Magnesium, and Iron (based on an average adult with a daily intake of 2000kcals).
If I break the above information down it looks like this:
One biscuit is made up of 15% fat, 66% carbohydrate, 8% protein, and 7% fibre. If you look at ONLY the sugar content of this “healthy” breakfast biscuit, it is made up of 28% sugar – MORE THAN QUARTER OF WHAT THE BISCUIT IS MADE OF IS SUGAR – WHITE, REFINED, GET-READY-FOR-THE-CRASH, SUGAR. You eat these for breakfast, spike your blood sugar levels, then crash mid-morning. This company have biscuits for that too…
What I was more shocked at was when I was looking at some calorie controlled ready meals and analysing the nutritional information. I’m going to explain what it’s made up of and then make sure you can work out what the labels mean on these things so you can judge for yourself too.
So, a chicken tikka and basmati rice microwave meal
359kcal per 380g pack
Carbs: 46.0g of which sugars: 7.2g
Now, if you’re like me you’ll be like “Hold on a minute, that doesn’t add up to anywhere near 380g”. This was my first thought… The total weight of the macro-nutrients actually only equates to around 22% of the total meal weight.
Fats are at 2%, carbs at 12.1%, and protein at 6.4%, not to mention that you’re getting over 1/5 of the recommended maximum amount of salt intake for the day in one meal.
Where is the other 297g of the dish? 78% of your meal is made up of water; yes water is good for you but sure you want to be eating food that’s going to keep you full? As someone who loves to eat, and who likes to feel satisfied by lunch, I would be needing many of these to satisfy my hunger but guess what?? That means I would be taking in 2-3 times the calories!
Want to be able to work this stuff out for yourself? It’s not too difficult you’ll be pleased to know.
On every pack you will get the nutritional label on the back which covers what is in the product. To get a gauge of how much of the product has nutritional value just scan down the “per 100g” column and add up the fats, carbs, proteins, and fibre – forget the subtitled bits about saturated fats and sugars for now.
Whatever it adds up to is also your percentage of how much nutrition is in the product. So if the fats, carbs, proteins, and fibre add up to 92g, it’s also 92% (this is why we’re going off the per 100g column, nice and simple).
You can also gauge the macro-nutrients easily from here too; the fat, carb, and protein content. Lets say that from the 92g we got above it was made up of 30g of protein, 45g of carb, and 12g of fat (leaving 5g of fibre). This means the product is 30% protein, 45% carb, and 12% fat.
The main thing I would check next is the sugar content – Under the carbohydrate content, the label will state “of which sugars” this is both natural and refined sugar (if sugar is one of the first 5 ingredients listed on the product I wouldn’t even entertain it, find something else). Because we are working on the same per 100g column whatever the number in grams will also be the percentage; so if “of which sugars” it then states 30g then uh-oh, 30% of the item you are looking to eat is made up of sugar. Not ideal.
Anyway, I’ve kind of lost the point. Oh yeah, even if you only have a basic knowledge of what is in the foods you choose to eat you will be able to make better choices for yourself.
Ideally, meals made from scratch, from raw, fresh ingredients are what you want to be consuming as often as possible. It’s not always possible though, so try taking an few extra minutes to read and break down the information that’s available and IGNORE THE HEALTH CLAIMS on the front of the pack.
I’ll talk about blood sugar levels another day, I’v mentioned it a few times in here and how it spikes but will detail about keeping it stable another day.