Label Reading Simplified: What to look for

Label Reading Simplified: What to look for

When you start changing your diet, one of the most important things you can do is to start looking at the labels of foods you buy. Unfortunately, you can’t trust the marketing lingo on the front of the box. A product may claim to be all natural, whole grain and no sugar added – and still be full of chemicals, sodium and artificial sweeteners. So you may think you are being healthy but in reality it is that food that is bringing you down! The best thing to do is to look at the ingredient labels and compare that to the nutritional label to see if it’s a healthy-ish option.

I look at the ingredient list first. The ingredients are listed in order of the ingredient that is in the highest concentration in the food. So if the number one ingredient is sugar….yeah, it’s going back on the shelf! I look for the top ingredients to be foods that I recognize, whole grains, etc. I look for a minimum of things I don’t recognize. If I don’t know what it is, do I want to eat it?? There are a lot of sneaky words for added sugar, which often are things like fructose, sucrose, syrup of various varieties (corn, rice, etc). I don’t mind if honey or pure maple syrup are added, as long as the overall sugar content in the label isn’t that high – a few grams or less. Women should consumer less than 20g of added sugar per day and men 36g.

sugar

Sodium is the next thing I look at, because sodium is often added in large quantities to make food taste better. Everything tastes better with salt! But I would like to be the one to add it in small amounts. As with sugar, I look for the sodium level to be in the single digits and as low as possible.

salt

I don’t buy a ton of processed foods, because they are usually high in one of these! Milton’s crackers and cereal and gluten free pretzels are probably my only “staples” that I buy in the snack category. Oh and Z Bars, which are organic, I am pretty comfortable with all the ingredients and my kids love them. So I feel less guilty about them being “processed.” More about cereal in another article (my 5 year old LOVES cereal, I used to eat it every day but after reviewing the sugar content on pretty much every box of cereal I save it for an occasional treat meal!). My husband is a celiac so he likes the gluten free pretzels.

There are a number of other things you can look at…calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat…I try to stay away from GMO (genetically modified ingredients), MSG, partially or full hydrogenated oils…

And added vitamins and nutrients are all well and good but I’m not going to consume extra sugary items for that reason! I feel it’s sort of a marketing strategy to make it appear healthier than it is!

There are a lot of things but I focus on the ingredients first, because the ingredients will tell me if there is crap in it and if the sugar is high then the calories and carbohydrates will be too! This is a very broad overview, and if you’d like a more indepth one you can read more about it on the FDA’s page here. When I’m in the grocery store with both my 5 and almost 3 year old, I have about 10 seconds to scan a label before I get interrupted and the ingredient scan and sugar and sodium scan give me a really quick idea if I want to buy the item or not. Rule of thumb – stick to the perimeter of the grocery store for clean eating!

 

Road Trip Snack Bag Mom Hack!

Road Trip Snack Bag Mom Hack!

We do a lot of road trips around here! We live in NC and both of our families live 8-10 hours away (PA & NJ) so we drive up to see them usually twice a year, if not more. We also had some family meet ups in Virginia the past year, which was nice – only about 5-6 hours. With 2 kids (2 and 5) we drive a normal size SUV. So our vehicle is PACKED to the max when we travel.

I usually have barely any foot space as we end up putting a small cooler, a bag of snacks and a bag of entertainment at my feet. I could put these items on the floor at the kid’s feet, and then I’d end up doing 50 back and neck twists by the end of the drive…so I sacrifice the foot space vs the aggravated back.

My kids basically require a snack every five minutes in the car. Do yours or is it just mine? Snack! Snack! Snack! And I really just don’t give a toot after a few hours in the car, pretty much anything goes at that point. I do try to pack some healthy snacks but, I also don’t really want them having to go to the bathroom if I load them up with fruit SO we do have quite a bit of salty snacky things. Goldfish are the special treat we get for road trips as I don’t really buy them on a normal basis at home (I read an article about how terrible they are, probably on Facebook. Yeah, I know they are probably fine. They eat enough in the road trips to make up for it anyways).

So I generally use a semi-structured bag, reusable grocery bag or Trader Joe’s paper bag and carefully pack all snacks in a neat and tidy order. By the end of the ride that thing is a disorderly crumpled intermingled mess and I am digging through it to find what I want and crushing the stray goldfish and pretzels in my annoyance.

Well. Not this time. I present to you, the compartmental travel snack bag (aka the 6 pack wine holder). For a shorter trip, a 6 pack beer holder would probably also work quite wonderfully.

snack bag 1

 

There is a gap at the bottom between the compartments in my bag, which I stuffed with a few individual packets of veggie straws (which are basically like pillows. They have a lot of air to protect that precious cargo inside, one would presume). Then each compartment got it’s snacks.

snack bag 2

I’m pretty pleased with this idea. And I’d love to hear what you do for road trips when space in your vehicle is limited! What are your mom hacks??

snackbag

Crunchies (roasted chickpeas)

Crunchies (roasted chickpeas)

Crunchies, also known as roasted chick peas, are one of my kids favorite snacks!  I made them on a whim and they were a hit (and named by my 4 year old).  As with all my recipes, these are yummy, delicious and easy, which qualifies me to post them on my blog (no losers make the cut).

I always make one can and wish I’d made two, so make two and then you have a nice snack for the next day when you get the nibbles.

 

Ingredients:
2 cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried on paper towels, dish towels, whatever.
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 TBsp evoo
1 teaspoon garlic or onion powder
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven 400. If you can dry the chickpeas for 30 minutes after draining them, awesome!  Otherwise just try to dry them well.  Mix in a dish with the EVOO, add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Throw them on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake approximately 35-40 minutes.  If you are just doing one can, check it at 20 minutes and push them around on the tray (they will stick a little bit).  Keep checking them every 5 min or so, they are done when they start to get dark.  And once they start to burn, they are all toast pretty quickly, so keep an eye on them.  Burnt crunchies are no bueno.

Let me know how you like them!  You could also change up the parmesan and spices to pretty much anything that you put on popcorn.  The choices are staggering.  But keep it clean folks, don’t take away from the health benefits here!!

Yay for back to school & homemade no bake granola bars!!

Yay for back to school & homemade no bake granola bars!!

I’ve been wanting to make my own granola bars for a while, but wanted something super easy.  I found some good ones I liked and modified them just a bit for the perfect bar!  What’s great is that this can be modified for gluten free, nut free, dairy free – so many options.

Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats
1/4-1/2 c coconut flour
3/4 nut butter of choice (sunbutter for nut free)
1/4 c honey
cinnamon
1/2 c mini choc chips
milk of choice (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

Combine rolled oats & coconut flour and cinnamon (a few dashes). Mix nut butter & honey and melt in microwave until liquidy and combined. Mix with dry ingredients until thick batter is formed.  If too dry, add small amounts of milk until everything is combined in a very thick batter.  Press into an 8×8 dish with parchment paper lining, cover and refrigerate 24 hours for best results!  You can eat sooner than that, but will be a little sticky.

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