Saturday, November 14, 2009

Read the labels—it will scare you

When I got pregnant with my oldest, my husband became a label reader. No nitrates, no nitrites, no MSG or a host of other ingredients we'd researched. We started buying free range eggs (have you ever noticed the shells are thicker? Happier chickens, I think) and milk without the growth hormones. It was all on a mission to be more aware of what we were eating. Because labels lie.

Let me repeat that. Labels lie.

It happens all the time. The front of the label says something vague, like, "less sodium." You might grab that, thinking you've done due diligence and you're consuming less salt. But that might not even be true if you haven't read the chart on the back of the label.

Those daily value percentages are important. Just the other day I was tricked into buying something because I didn't read the chart on the back. I got it home and groaned. Why would I consume a chicken broth with 25 percent of my daily value of sodium when there's one that only contains three percent? How can the 25 percent one really call itself less sodium? Since none of us probably eat chicken broth straight, it's likely an ingredient in another dish.

Let's take chicken tacos, for example. There's likely salt in your chicken broth, your cheese, your taco shells, and even your taco sauce. Put it all together and one taco might give you all the salt you're supposed to have for an entire day. Yikes! Add a side dish, like beans or rice, and your Mexican feast just became high blood pressure waiting to happen.

Bottom line: This stuff is confusing. And it can be darned hard to find the healthy in the lying aisles of the supermarket. But what better gift can you give yourself than being a little more discriminating about what you put into your one and only body?

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