Our nutritionist expert, Cristina shares why she’s stopped reading food labels… and for good reason too!
Mamas, I have to be honest, I’ve stopped reading food labels. I just don’t have a photographic memory and can’t remember the 300 million names for additives, preservatives, MSG and sugar. If you’re seeking to make healthy food choices to improve your health and immunity during pregnancy, this one habit can make the biggest difference:
Stick to the fresh produce section of the supermarket.
The more time you spend wandering around the back aisles of the supermarket (aka the ones that aren’t refrigerated) the less nutrient dense your diet will be. When you do wander to the dark side though, here are some of the pitfalls to look out for:
Don’t be fooled into thinking that “healthy alternatives” are healthy
For example, Silk Almond Milk has a long list of ingredients. Apart from being very high in sugar, this drink is full of thickeners is the form of various different gums and other ingredients to increase its shelf life. My solution? I buy Rude Health Almond Milk which has just three ingredients, all of which I recognise.
Sugar is in everything
For example, when making pasta sauce with ground meat, a lot of grocery store brands will have a large amount of sugar in it’s ingredient list. My solution: I make my own tomato sauce and I buy organic Prairie turkey and chicken deli meats because they do not add anything but water and salt to the protein.
Natural flavour… what does that mean?
Here’s the definition for this term but basically it’s chemically derived additive and sometimes it comes from an animal’s gland located in strange places… #gross My solution: Buy another option if available or if not – I don’t eat it.
MSG is in all processed foods. Period.
Don’t bother learning the 300 other names for MSG because when it is used as a processing agent, which is very common in many food products, MSG does not require labelling. MSG is actually found in many health foods like veggie burgers, turkey sausages, textured or hydrolysed proteins and some highly processed protein powders. And guess what? Those ingredients called “powders” which are in most deli meats (even the nitrate/nitrite, so-called “healthy” ones). My research seems to indicate that they are very often forms of MSG. My solution: I limit my processed food purchases and try to eat them only once a week.
Stay away from food colouring and e-numbers
The rainbow Skittles, the ice lollies/popsicles, slushies, rainbow liquorice, hot dogs are coloured food you should stay away from, especially Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. They are notorious for triggering allergic responses and behavioural problems. Food colouring is also camouflaged with “E numbers”. For example, E-110 is yellow, E131 is blue. My solution: I buy nothing with E’s in it. Hard and fast rule.
Why does shopping have to be so hard?
Sometimes it feels like the food industry is in a conspiracy against us. Why can’t we trust even the healthy labels? It’s just too frustrating. This is why I have gradually weaned myself off food products with labels on them. We all have to make priority calls when shopping and no one knows better than you on what is right for your family. However, sticking to the front of the supermarket could be your best weapon in the constant struggle to keep you strong and healthy during and after pregnancy.