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How to Read Labels

 

So, you decided it is time to start paying more attention to what you buy, or as you are on a LCHF diet reading labels become suddenly something very important. So you start, and so you get overwhelmed and confused with all those numbers, terminology, and ingredients. Let me help you with a tutorial on how to get you started.  So we go to the store, and find this:nutr-lemonHummm ok, what does this all mean? Let me simply it for you:label1

label2

label3

So now we’re good right? Wrong. Why?

Well, in fact reading ingredients is for me even more important than just looking at numbers.

And why is that, you may ask?

If you are interested in clean eating like I am, there is where the importance of reading ingredients is. A food says it has 6g carbs for 100g, ok, fine, low carb it is. BUT if those 6g come from wheat, sugar, and other bad choices of ingredients, it’s totally different than it would if those carbs came from clean sources.

Remember: people want to sell that product, they are not much interested in selling you health, they are interested in maximizing profit.

So, lets just give you some basic rules for ingredients:

  1. Choose foods with as less ingredients as possible
  2. You cannot understand those ingredients? Do they look Neptunian to you? Don’t buy.
  3. On labels, ingredients are listed in order by weight, meaning that the first ingredients are the ones in higher amount.
  4. Avoid trans fats like the plague.Trans fats are nasty, are chemically modified fats. In some countries, if a food contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, it can be labelled as containing zero trans fats (remember that portion sizes can be small ad quickly it adds up and you end up with trans fats on your diet. Terms to look for are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated
  5. Look for hidden sugars. Sugar can be sneaked in by using one of the many names it can have among them high-fructose corn syrup, organic cane sugar, fructose, glucose, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, maltose, caster sugar, agave, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, corn syrup, palm sugar, molasses, etc. NOTE: most bacon and cold cuts are cured with sugar or honey. The amount of residual sugar in the final product is very low so they are acceptable, specially if you cannot find a clean brand
  6. Stay away from added sugar as much as possible (connected to the above). Sugar naturally occurring in food, such as cheese (lactose is a sugar), fruits and veggies is totally different from added sugars
  7. Run away from “light”, “sugar free”, “Low fat”, “Diet” products, as most have hidden sugars and other not so nice ingredients to replace the nutrients taken
  8. Avoid vegetable oils such as soybean, peanut, corn, safflower, rapeseed, sunflower etc, stick with good sources such as olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, coconut oil, etc
  9. Just because it states organic, does not mean it is. Try to look for labels that are certified or state that it was certified organically produced (of course that if you are in a country where organic is as difficult or more than catching the next space shuttle to Venus, you have to be less strict)
  10. Stay away from artificial sweeteners (aspartame, cyclamate, Saccarin, Sucralose,  etc)
  11. Look for additives: anything artificial is out. Caramel color is out, natural flavors can also be a no as many times there is nothing natural about them. Take a look at this infographic from the CSPI:

FoodAdditives_Infographic 2

So now, lets finish with a few examples of labels:

labeldalilalabelsdalilacanned cabbage

Hope I have helped somehow

 

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Foods to eat

A very common question I get is: Can I eat that?

You will get two options usually:

  1. Yeah, as it fits you macros is fine.

Well is it, really?

That would mean that as long as a food would fit into your daily allowances for carbohydrates, proteins and fats, it would be fine. So, you could eat sugar, bread, pasta, rice, vegetable oil like sunflower, maize or peanut oil, artificial sweeteners, soda drinks, you name it.

Would you lose weight? Yes, Maybe Maybe not

Would you benefit from the health advantages of a LCHC diet? No, definitely not.

I am always negatively surprised when I hear people say: well I am not interested in the health aspect, I only want to lose weight. Oh, ok, so you rather be thin and sick? How the heck will you enjoy that new body of yours? Wouldn’t it be making more sense if you were at the same time thin and healthy? I guess so. So, that would lead us to the second answer you usually get:

2. Well, if you aim for health and weight loss, then no, that food is not fine.

Why? Its an answer that will highly depend on what food we are talking about as well as of course, your biological individuality.

Since the beginning of my LCHF journey, I always had both pinned to my fridge, and with me at all times, a list of the keto approved foods (by keto approved foods, please note that I follow an holistic approach, aiming for health and weight loss. It helped me tremendously anytime I had a question about a certain food being ok or not. It helped me tremendously in making the correct choices when shopping. So here goes my list of foods:

  • Fruit & Veggies: Avocados, Coconut, Asparagus, Leeks (in moderation), cabbage, Spinach, Chard, Cauliflower, Broccoli, lettuce, celery, daikon,zucchini, gem squash, fennel, radishes, bok choi, endives, radicchio, summer squash, pumpkin (moderation), butternut (moderation), eggplant, kale, lemon, berries (moderation), mushrooms, tomatoes (moderation), onion (moderation), rocket, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts (moderation), kohlrabi, cucumber, palm hearts, bamboo shoots, kombu, okra, sugar snap peas, green beans, artichokes, pumpkin leaves, cassava leaves, melon (occasionally), passion fruit (occasionally), pomegranate (occasionally), green mango and green papaya (very occasionally), açai (pure, occasionally)
  • Spices and herbs:  All (make sure spices have no added ingredients)
  • Condiments and thickeners: home made mayo, pesto (red and green), bone broth, pickles, home made ketchup, home made BBQ sauce, lime zest, lemon zest, fermented foods, whey protein (no added artificial sweeteners, soy, corn syrup, maltodextrin, MSG, etc), egg white protein, gelatin, psyllium husk, guar gum, arrowroot, xantham gum (all gums in moderation), natural sweeteners (moderation), cocoa powder, dark chocolate, home made chicken, fish, vegetable or beef stock, vinegar
  • Dairy (check for any sensitivity of if it stalls you): full fat cheese, ghee, butter, double cream, whipping cream, sour cream, amansi,
  • Eggs, Meats, Seafood & Fish: You can find grass fed? Great. You cannot? eat it, just try to choose the best possible source. Beef (all cuts, sausage – check for any added ingredients), pork (all cuts, bacon, rinds, crackling, salami, pepperoni, Parma ham, coppa, pancetta, sausage – check for any added ingredients), lamb (all cuts, sausage – check for any added ingredients), venison, duck, chicken, pheasant, turkey, all fishes (as fatter the better – mackerel, trout, sardines, salmon, butter fish, codfish, etc), prawns, octopus, calamari, squid, mussels, crab, langoustine, lobster, clams, razor clams,  offal
  • Nuts & Seeds (always in moderation): macadamia, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnut, pistachio, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flax, pine nuts, hemp seeds, cashew nuts (even more moderation due to the carbohydrate content), Brazil nuts (restrict due to the selenium content), Barú nuts (a type of nut from Brasil)
  • Oils & fats: tallow, duck fat, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, hemp seed oil, lard, chicken fat, ghee, butter, palm oil (from trusted sources, sustainable and fair trade)
  • Baking items: nut flours (all but peanuts, which are in fact a legume), seed flowers, baking soda, cream of tartar, gluten free baking powder (check label), organic extracts (vanilla, maple, banana, etc)
  • Beverages & Alcohol (the latter only after maintenance, and always remember that you body will switch from burning fat to burning alcohol as preferred energy source): water, nut milk, seed milk, matcha tea, green and black tea (organic), herbal tea, kombucha, kefir, coffee, infused water, dry wines and spirits

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