Hope you are having as great a night as I am! Last night we looked at nutrition labels and what the different numbers mean on your packaged food. Tonight, I want to show how to read an ingredient list. Tomorrow, we’ll break that down a little more an go into some detail about what those ingredients really mean to you and your health. But for now, let’s check out what’s in this box of macaroni and cheese. Most kids love this stuff. Even some grown ups think boxed macaroni and cheese is a quick and easy lunch. But what are we really getting when we eat this?
Not to pick on boxed macaroni and cheese or anything, but I hope everyone here knows by now that this really isn’t what we should choose, and we can tell that by reading the label. That “enriched flour” isn’t better for you at all. It’s just plain white flour with a bunch of chemical “nutrients” mixed in. Vegetable shortening is bad news – partially hydrogenated anything is bad, bad, bad. Most of these vegetable oils are heated at high temperatures and rapidly turn rancid. In this case, it’s turned rancid and then powdered so you don’t notice. Please note that whole wheat is only 5% and cheddar cheese is only 1% of the ingredients. What? Apparently this mac and cheese isn’t really so cheesy after all! Also, watch out for that autolyzed yeast – that’s actually hidden MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Notice in the minor ingredients all of the artificial colors. These are only listed as minor ingredients because the product contains very miniscule amounts in comparison to the actual bulk of the food. These artificial ingredients are the most harmful part of the product because of their carcinogenic properties, and the damage that they can cause in someone who is sensitive to these kinds of ingredients, especially kids! And, sodium caseinate is not milk as this label implies. It’s a derivitive of a milk protein, but it sure isn’t milk. If I were shopping and read this label, I would put this food right back on the shelf! I’m pretty sure this would be very low on the NuVal scoring system, and if we could see the nutrition label it would read very high in carbohydrates, low in fiber, protein, and vitamins. It would also have very high sodium, and would basically be providing you and your children with a lot of empty calories.
Real macaroni and cheese made with whole grain pasta, real cheddar cheese, butter and milk on the other hand would provide you with healthy carbs, higher fiber from the whole grain, calcium and protein from the cheese and milk, and healthy fats from the butter.
Make sure you read labels every time you shop; you don’t want to be eating hidden chemicals and ingredients that look like they should be healthy but are really just artificial additives. Get in the habit of learning what’s in your food and you’ll find it is much easier to buy good food that you and your family really enjoy. Even your picky eaters will find healthy alternatives to some of the favorite processed foods. I hope you learn from this label some of the things that will make you put a box back on the shelf. Tomorrow night, we’ll break this down a little more and talk about what the ingredients on these labels really mean. Have a great night, everyone!