Message in a bottle

Originally posted on January 16, 2013

Remember that great tune from The Police?

When I was growing up my mum used to say I was part of the food police… at that time it involved scowling at anyone daring to put a tube of Smarties in their supermarket trolley when a certain multi-national were doing all the nasty stuff with baby formula… But since then, new issues have come up (I still boycott N though!).

Thinking about this week’s blog both the song and the policing came to mind! Most of the bottles, cans, and packets we buy have messages pasted all over them. The most prominent tabloid-esque ones claim ‘low-fat’, ‘no-fat’, ‘50% less fat’ … or ‘reduced sugar’, ‘less-salt’ and ‘high-fibre’…  lots of relative terms – less than what exactly?

We are constantly bombarded with these claims and not much surprise that we don’t know where to look or what to believe in the end.

Much better to get out the glasses (or magnifying glass) and start policing those labels… lets see what’s really hiding in our bottles!

Here are five simple ideas for deciphering the codes:

1)   Usually the shorter the ingredient list, the better … (obvious exceptions if there are lots of spices – see no. 2!)

2)   See if you can pronounce (easily) all the ingredients and if you keep them in your food cupboard. If you wouldn’t know what to do with them then pretty good chance your body doesn’t know either!

3)   Watch out for sugar or anything with ‘–ose ‘ (fructose, glucose) which is too high in the list (top of the list means it is the main ingredient by weight). Blueberry jam for example should be full of blueberries, no?

4)   As far as fats are concerned avoid trans-fats or anything hydrogenated… better with butter or olive oil or anything you would cook with yourself. Trans-fats allow a packet of biscuits to stay un-changed on a supermarket shelf for months on end… great for the company making them – not so great for you!

5)   Don’t worry! Have fun with it and see it as a game… we all have our favourite things that we know are not that great for us, but if most of the time we are enjoying un-processed, un-refined food, our bodies will thank us for it.

Do you have any top tips on label-reading? I would love to hear your thoughts…