Loving the BITE: I Despise Nutrition Labels

25
Jun
2015

whonu-cookiesI despise nutrition labels. And even worse, nutrition claims on the front of a package are a joke.  Sound like a rant? I’m just getting started.

You read that right. Although the intentions may have been good with both of these, they become little more than marketing and politics in modern day food manufacturing. Why?

Because food is more than numbers, and most association credentialing is politically driven.  While I usually focus more on training nutrition for cyclists, I know a huge part of eating is navigating food packages and labels – and these decision affect our overall health and riding.

First, nutrition labels: If you don’t know where your calories and grams of this or that are coming from, and are only looking at the numbers as if foods are little more than chemicals for the body, you’re missing out on a lifestyle focused on nourishment.  Here’s what I mean: take a fiber-fortified, low-fat cookie like “WhoNu Cookies?”and an organic apple. Look at the nutrition labels: For 2 cookies or 1 small apple, each will have ~90 calories, 2-4 gm fiber, and 15-20 grams of carbs. Both are low fat.  And, what’s more, the processed fiber cookies actually have an edge in the protein department.  This does not tell the whole story.

On the front of the packaging, the fiber cookies get to make all sorts of nutrition (read: political) claims. Many, many dollars are spent on marketing. The apple? Not much of a marketing budget. Many products even get an endorsement from “health-promoting” organizations like the American Heart Association, or get to claim they may reduce this or that disease, or cause you to become athletic, good-looking, or just a better person if you eat them.  Wow Mom, if my favorite professional athletes eats these, they must be good!  Who Nu’s manufacturers make these claims:

  • as much Vitamin C as cup of blueberries
  • as much iron as a cup of spinach
  • as much calcium and Vitamin D as a glass of milk
  • as much Vitamin A as an 8 ounce glass of tomato juice
  • as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal
  • as much Vitamin E as two glasses of carrot juice
  • as much Vitamin B-12 as a cup of cottage cheese and fruit

Really, you want to make consumers believe these cookies are as good as whole foods? Again, these are just numbers, not real nourishment.

It takes more to find the whole story. If you search past the nutrition label and marketing health claims and look at the ingredients, you’ll find it.  You may go back to the nutrition label as a secondary piece of information if you’re interested in the grams of carbs, or proteins, or fiber, etc., but this should only be after you’ve approved the ingredients.  When you look at our example, Fiber Cookies are made of:

sugar, wheat flour, vegetable oils (canola, palm, palm kernel oil, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and coconut oil), cocoa, dextrose, polydextrose, yellow corn flour, corn syrup, baking soda, soy lecithin, salt, natural and artificial flavor, monoglycerides, vanilla extract.

And an apple? The ingredients are an apple, grown on a tree, and in the case of an organic one, without pesticides. You decide which will nourish your body more.

Why the rambling soap-box today? Simply because today is a good day to discuss how to pick out good processed foods (any food that’s not in its whole, natural form), and introduce you to one that I’m excited about. As you can tell, I’m a super-skeptic of anything in a box. But, I recently turned one over to the ingredients list, and was pleasantly surprised.  I’ve now found organic edamame noodles! The ingredients? Edamame and water!

Usually I include a recipe for Loving the Bite, but I’m no culinary wizard – I have no idea how to make noodles out of edamame and water. Instead, I’ll recommend that you try them yourself and top them with protein (optional, as they are already high-protein) and a healthy sauce. Here’s how:

Recipe of the Week: Edamame Noodles with Delicious Curry Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Edamame Pasta such as Explore Asian
  • Loving the Bite Pesto or Curry
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 Cups Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, sliced bell peppers, snow peas, etc.
  • Cooked protein such as chicken, chickpeas, fish, etc.

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium high heat. Add vegetables and stir fry until tender-crisp (usually 8-10 minutes). Add cooked protein and heat through.

If using curry, add curry when you add protein.

If using pesto, remove all ingredients from heat before adding.

Serve protein and vegetables over pasta, cover with sauce.

Comments:

Now you know how I feel about nutrition labels and why. In summary, here are the 1-2-3 steps to picking out a good processed food.

1) Completely ignore the front of the packaging. Cover your eyes if you need to. (Even for the edamame noodles, don’t look!)edamame

2) Read the ingredients. Usually, the fewer the better. Even more importantly, avoid processed sugars/sweeteners, soybean oil, and chemical junk ingredients as much as possible. (Edamame noodles: Edamame and water)

3)  If you’re interested in calories and grams take a look only after it’s passed your test in step #2. (Every servings has 24 grams of protein – yes!)

We tried these noodles last week and they passed the deliciousness-test of a 1 year old, 3 year old, 6 year oil, 8 year old, a texture-picky husband, and his amazing wife. Want some for yourself? You can find the noodles at: http://www.amazon.com/Explore-Asian-Organic-Edamame-Spaghetti/dp/B00TCUM7X2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435181383&sr=8-1&keywords=edamame+pasta

This week, ignore the marketing and get to the real story when picking out processed foods. Fuel your body with real foods and real ingredients; avoid piles of manipulated chemical ingredients masked as a health food.

Of course, while I recommend whole foods in their natural forms most often, there is room for some good products like these awesome Explore Asian Organic Edamame Noodles.  Stick with the good foods in and your body will give you good things (on the bike) in return.

Fuel Your Ride.  Nourish Your Body.

 

 

 

Enjoy Your Ride
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2 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: I Despise Nutrition Labels ”

  1. Kelli on June 25, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Hi Ed,
    Thanks so much for the comment. I hear the same is true of carrots – just sugar right?!? Ha. Thanks for reading and keep eating those real foods! Kelli, RD

  2. Ed on June 25, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Great article. There is so much more to food than reducing it to the numbers. So much junk out there is trying to masquerade as real food which is good for you. I once had a coworker question the fact that I was eating an apple, because according to him it was just sugar.(?!) Keep up the great work and the fantastic info.

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Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.

Answer:

Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

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