Before we dig into this topic, let’s start with a quick guessing game.
Read the following ingredients and try to guess what it is:
Soy Protein Nuggets (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Peanut Butter Fudge (Corn Syrup, Invert Sugar, Peanut Butter [Peanuts, Sugar, Salt], Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Peanut Flour, Milk Protein Isolate, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Vanilla Extract, Xanthan Gum, Carob Seed Gum, Beta-Carotene), Chocolate Flavored Coating (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Cocoa Powder, Whey Powder, Nonfat Milk Powder, Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Corn Syrup, Acacia Gum, Fructose Syrup, Peanut Butter, Peanut Flour, Peanuts. Less than 2% of the Following: Glycerine, Soy Protein Isolate, Natural Flavor, Calcium Phosphate, Salt, and Vitamin & Mineral Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid [Vit. C], Magnesium Oxide, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate [Vit. E], Niacinamide [Vit. B3], Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate [Vit. B5], Ferrous Fumarate [Iron], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vit. B6], Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin [Vit. B2], Thiamine Mononitrate [Vit. B1], Folic Acid [Vit. B9], Chromium Chloride, Biotin [Vit. B7], Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Cyanocobalamin [Vit. B12]).
If you guessed that it was a candy bar, you would be wrong.
It’s a Chocolate Peanut Butter Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar.
You’ll find it in the “Nutrition” or “Health Food” aisle at your grocery store. Chances are you’ve eaten something similar when you were tight for time and needed to grab something quick and “healthy.”
Or maybe you ate one as a meal replacement at lunchtime. But after you look at the sugar, chemicals, fillers and strange fat substitutions in the ingredients, you need to ask yourself, “Is this really even food?” It’s more like Frankenfood; —a strange concoction of highly processed ingredients.
And it’s not just the Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil. Go back and count the number of times some form of sugar or syrup appears in this label. Sugar in all of its many sneaky forms is the death of a good diet. Sugar is nothing short of poison for most people. It has its place in small quantities on special occasions. But for many people, it’s delicious, addictive, and toxic. And is actually a bigger contributor to unwanted weight gain than fat in our diet.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. (Pun intended.) Sugar is more than just bad for your teeth; it causes insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes, is the primary cause for obesity, can cause liver disease, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and more. I’m thinking that the “Nutrition Bar” listed above is anything but nutritious. Sure looks like a candy bar to me.
That’s the problem with the words “nutritious”, “healthy” and “organic.” When we are in a hurry, we want to trust the packaging. And eventually we stop doing the work. If you’re serious about improving your health and increasing your energy and focus, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and take the time to read the labels. To help you navigate the shopping aisles you can grab a copy of my clean eating shopping guide HERE
Better yet, challenge yourself to see how many days you can go with only eating single ingredient foods. You may eventually find yourself going an entire week without eating anything that needs a label.
Imagine that! Chicken is just chicken. Spinach is just spinach and avocado is just avocado. You don’t need a label or a special set of instructions. One ingredient foods are the key to feeling and performing better at whatever you do.
Ask yourself if what you are about to eat is man-made or nature made. If it flew, grew, swam or ran you’re probably good to go. If not, put it down.
Food that has one ingredient is almost always the most pure form of nutrition. And giving yourself over to clean, simple ingredients will set you on the path to a healthier diet and a longer, healthier life.
Eating better doesn’t have to be complicated. By only eating food found in nature, you will be most of the way there. And if your grandma couldn’t eat it as a child then chances are neither should you.
When you look at a label on a box, can, or bag of food at the store, think about your pantry. If you can not recreate that box or bag of food from scratch with the staples in your pantry, fridge and freezer, then put it back on the shelf and head to the perimeter of the store to buy your groceries. (And don't forget to download my Clean Eating Shopping Guide before your next shopping trip)
The bottom line is that the recipe for eating better is simple: eating simple foods is simply eating better.