It would be so easy if food would just cook itself. You wouldn’t have to worry about the time to go to the store, select whole healthy foods, and then do the prep work to turn those ingredients into a meal. No wonder so many of us turn to pre-packaged foods for their convenience.
But now, more than ever, packaged foods are sneaking in ingredients that have little nutritional value and actually mess up any healthy eating intentions you may have had. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again… you can’t always believe what’s on the front of the package. You absolutely must read the nutrition label and ingredients list. Even “healthy” or “vegetarian” or “low-carb, low-fat” brands can be filled with undesirables.
Sweeteners: besides “sugar,” packaged foods may contain fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrin, and other sugars/sweeteners to enhance flavor. This happens with extreme frequency in low-fat foods.
Sodium: You don’t even have to look at the ingredients to find all the hidden salts in canned goods, frozen meats, frozen vegetables or pastas with sauces, deli meats, cheeses, snack foods, and more. Just look at the sodium content. Anything more than 250mg per serving is more than you need from just one meal or ingredient. What’s even trickier is that these packages usually contain multiple servings… so you always have to multiply what’s shown by the number of servings you intend to eat. For instance, if you get a bag of pretzels, and the serving size is 12 pretzels, be real with yourself and admit it if you’ll really eat more like 20 of them.
Hydrogenated Oils and Trans Fats: By now you should know that trans fats are bad. They increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). So, most food manufacturers have started removing blatant trans fats from their products – even blazing it in big letters like NO TRANS FATS on the front of the package. But before you buy, flip it over and look for hydrogenated oils. These are still more difficult for the body to break down and can still contribute to unwanted pounds and unfavorable cholesterol levels.
Convinced but still need some quick fixes? Treat yourself to pre-cut tomatoes and produce so you reduce your prep time for salads, vegetable-rich pasta dishes, and simple soups. You and your waistline will be glad you did.