So you’ve started to buy your one ingredient foods, you’re drinking your 2 litres of water daily, you are cooking the right way but you pick up a product that you cannot understand the labelling on? Sound familiar? So even if we have a diet based on whole foods, we will always come across foods with ingredients lists. It is so important to be able to read these. Remember ingredients lists are written in descending order so the first ingredient is the most abundant with the least at the end of the list. Beware of hidden salts, additives, colourants and sugars. Sugar can be disguised as a number of names: Maltodextrin, Galactose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Fruit Juice Concentrate, Barley Malt, Diatase, Molasses, Treacle and the list goes on. Be cautious of this!!
Quality is another important thing to look for when looking at labelling. In Ireland, we have quality assurance labels, keep an eye out for these, especially with regards farmed produce. But we can delve into this further. Are all products created equal? Let's take the humble pork sausage. It has a quality assurance guarantee but you are still unsure what to pick? There is a quality difference in products like ‘80% pork sausages’ versus ‘50% pork sausages’. You have to question what else is in foodstuffs? You need to ask yourselves these questions and be aware of this when shopping. Another example is 100% peanut butter versus the store bought brand which has lots of hidden extras. Some brands of peanut butter are considered health products while others are sugar ridden.
Another issue that has come to light is health food marketing. Some foods are marketed as ‘healthy’ alternatives but are actually as bad as their ‘unhealthy’ alternative. A great example is certain granola brands which claim to be 'healthy' but actually contain more sugar than a chocolate bar. 'Protein' has become a buzz word of late and all brands seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Make sure to read the label and be sure there is sufficient protein and it is not just a marketing gimmick.
A lot of people get the whole healthy eating and they do it rather well but remember we can still over consume healthy foods. Here is a great guide for males and females for portion size. Now remember this is just a guide and depending on your activity levels, weight etc, these do differ.
For protein-dense foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or beans, use a palm sized serving.
For men it is recommended two palm-sized portions with each meal.
For women it is recommended one palm-sized portion with each meal
To determine your vegetable intake
For veggies like broccoli, spinach, salad, carrots, etc. use a fist-sized serving.
For men it is recommended 2 fist-sized portions of vegetables with each meal.
For women it is recommended 1 fist-sized portions of vegetables with each meal
To determine your carbohydrate intake
For carbohydrate-dense foods – like grains, starches, or fruits – use a cupped hand to determine your serving size.
For men it is recommended 2 cupped-hand sized portions of carbohydrates with most meals.
For women it is recommended 1 cupped-hand sized portions of carbohydrates with most meals.
To determine your fat intake
For fat-dense foods – like oils, butters, nut butters, nuts/seeds – use your entire thumb to determine your serving size.
For men it is recommended 2 thumb-sized portions of fats with most meals.
For women it is recommended 1 thumb-sized portions of fats with most meals.
Meat, Fish, Eggs
Beef mince (LEAN)
Fruit and Veg
Nuts and seeds
Choice of nuts – unsalted Lidl (baking section), Tesco, Aldi
Peanut butter/nut butter – Meridian Health Food Shop
Milled linseed, goji berries, sunflower seeds
Chia seed Aldi
Flaxseed Health Food Shop
Pumpkin seeds Aldi/Lidl
Sesame seeds Aldi/Lidl
Porridge oats Aldi/Dunnes
Plain Greek yogurt 0%
Thai red paste
Low fat Cheese
Dark Chocolate (85%)
Coconut oil (to cook with)
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Raw Cacao powder Health Food shop
Maple syrup Aldi/Lidl
Desiccated coconut Dunnes
Next week stay tuned for: Meal plan, recipes and snack ideas