The Food Label Challenge: Read the ingredients of every food/ food-like product you eat just before eating it.
Without making an extreme change, if you make a commitment to read each and every ingredient your choices contain, you will become more aware of what you're putting into your body and of what your food choices consist. This is not to make you feel bad about yourself or your choices, but rather to make you a more informed shopper and consumer. You should eat what you choose, just be mindful of the choices you're making.
Work to commit to this challenge for one whole week. Even if you've read the package of that same food previously, read it each time you eat it. If your food doesn't have a package, work to find out the ingredients it contains. If it is a fruit or vegetable, like an apple, then you've got very little work to do.
Here are a few examples of the work ahead.
Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts for breakfast?
Ingredients: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, DEXTROSE, SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL (WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS), SUGAR, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF CRACKER MEAL, WHEAT STARCH, SALT, DRIED STRAWBERRIES, DRIED PEARS, DRIED APPLES, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CITRIC ACID, CORN CEREAL, GELATIN, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL†, CARAMEL COLOR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SOY LECITHIN, XANTHAN GUM, MODIFIED WHEAT STARCH, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, COLOR ADDED, TURMERIC COLOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, RED #40, NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), YELLOW #6, RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), FOLIC ACID, BLUE #1.†LESS THAN 0.5g TRANS FAT PER SERVING
Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken for lunch?
Ingredients: COOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CHICKEN TENDERLOINS, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CORN OIL, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, GARLIC, ONION, PAPRIKA, SPICE), WATER, BLANCHED ENRICHED LONG GRAIN PARBOILED RICE (WATER, RICE, IRON, NIACIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID), GREEN BEANS, WHEAT BERRIES, CASHEWS (CASHEWS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL), 2% OR LESS OF MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, CHICKEN BROTH, VEGETABLE BASE (SAUTEED VEGETABLES [CARROTS, ONIONS, CELERY], SUGAR, MALTODEXTRIN, CANOLA OIL, CORNSTARCH, WATER, NATURAL FLAVORS, CONCENTRATED CARROT JUICE, CARROT EXTRACT), SEA SALT, CULTURED WHEY, CHICKEN FAT, CARAMEL COLOR, PARSLEY, LEMON BLEND (LEMON PEEL, SUGAR, LEMON OIL), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, SPICES, DEHYDRATED ONIONS, DEHYDRATED GARLIC
Birds Eye Voila! Garlic Chicken and Pepperidge Farms Garlic Texas Toast for dinner?
Ingredients of Garlic Chicken: Vegetables: Broccoli, Carrots, Peas. Pasta: Enriched Macaroni Product (Water, Semolina, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid). Grilled Diced Chicken Breast with Rib Meat Coated with Seasoning: Chicken, Water, Isolated Soy Protein, Seasoning (Sugar, Garlic, Dehydrated Romano Cheese [Pasteurized Cow's Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Dehydrated Onion), Salt, Sodium Phosphates, Natural Flavor. Coating: Corn Flour, Wheat Flour, Salt, Corn Starch, Spices, Paprika, Maltodextrin, Caramel Color, Defatted Soy Flour, Sodium Alginate, Baking Powder (Baking Soda, Corn Starch, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Acid Phosphate), Extractives of Paprika. Sauce on Pasta: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Whey, Parmesan Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Cream, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Maltodextrin, Food Starch-Modified, Wheat Flour, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Nonfat Dry Milk, Sugar, Butter (Cream, Salt), Spices, Cultured Nonfat Milk, Dry Buttermilk, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Natural Flavor, Lactic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose.
Ingredients of Texas Toast: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Water, Contains 2 Percent Or Less of: Soybean Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Salt, Wheat Flour, Monoglycerides, Malted Barley Flour, Datem (Dough Conditioner), Enzymes. Spread Made from: Vegetable Oils (Palm, Soybean), Water, Natural Flavors, Salt, Dehydrated Garlic, Contains 2 Percent Or Less of: Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Garlic Extract, Dehydrated Parsley, Nonfat Milk, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Turmeric And Annatto Extracts For Color.
This simple practice can help you make better choices regarding the ingredients of the food you choose. Instead of relying on dieting or drastic changes, making gradually better choices can help you to change your eating habits for the better over time--without leaving you feeling overwhelmed or deprived. That is one thing that going gluten-free did for us--it helped us recognize how many foods have questionable ingredients.
And because you are what you eat, this helped us to be more conscious of the choices we were making. You might get sick of having to read (or try to pronounce) all of those ingredients and it might help you lean towards more whole foods. Or maybe not. If you choose not to make any different choices as a result of this week, that's also fine, but either way you will become more aware as a consumer.
And what is Making Mindfulness all about, if not making you more aware?
Labels: Body & Mind, Go Ahead--Try It!, Mindful Eating