If you want to make progress with your health and fitness targets such as fat loss, then an awareness of how the food industry influences us through clever marketing and advertising is essential.
When it comes to being overweight, we think it’s a choice and down to eating too much food and we think the solution is willpower to stop eating so much food.
But there is a lot more to it than that and an awareness about modern food and labelling is desperately what’s needed.
I grew up thinking a healthy breakfast was some toast, breakfast cereal and a glass of orange juice because this is what I was told.
But this couldn’t be further from the scientific truth of what is healthy and food manufacturers mislead us in a big way.
This is so important to understand because I see and speak to people who are consuming foods they think are healthy but actually are not all the time.
Modern agriculture doesn’t care about our health
Most modern plants and animals have been selected for yield and attractiveness, not health and flavour.
This means big artificial chickens that grow fast in factory farms.
Wheat that grows short and fast.
Tomatoes that stay firm and bright red and totally tasteless.
Fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides.
Do we really think our bodies are designed to eat this?
Food companies only care about selling the most food to the most people so this means they prioritise cheap, accessible ingredients with long shelf lives.
That rules out most of the foods that are healthy and nutritious as well as those with flavours.
But the worst thing about this is that food manufacturers and marketers work very hard to influence us and lobby the government to make it seem like this food is actually healthy.
Top lies of the food industry
Terms such as 100% natural, free range and farm fresh all give us the impression and reassures us that we are buying good quality food.
But what do these actually mean in reality?
Natural and free range conjures up images of a chicken scampering around a field. But the reality is that chicken is crammed into a small space for the majority of the day.
Although there is a requirement for chickens to have access to outdoor space, there is no requirement on the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. So a chicken could have 5 minutes outdoor space a day, be crammed into a small space and pumped full of antibiotics and still be classed as free range and 100% natural.
So in reality the 100% natural, free range label doesn’t mean anything and is misleading.
2. Wholegrain cereals
In recent times we have been led to believe that whole grains are good for us.
Whilst they are certainly better than refined grains, there is limited evidence to suggest they are really that much better for you.
Moreover, food manufacturers often process these whole grains into flour stripping away much of the nutrients.
This means that they will raise blood sugar levels just the same as refined grains!
Yet they can still claim their produce is a source of whole grains and make it appear like a healthy product.
3. Low fat/fat free
Many people associate the term low fat with healthy eating.
However, the problem is with processed low-fat foods that often contain a lot of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. A recent study concluded that even though low fat products are lower calorie, the fact that they have a higher sugar content could have important health consequences.
For example, most low fat yoghurt has been stripped of what little nutrition it has and replaced with sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you can’t even pronounce.
Without fat yoghurt tastes like cardboard. Food manufacturers know this and so add ingredients to make it taste better. This is processed food as it’s stripping away what’s naturally present and replacing it with artificial ingredients.
4. Commercially prepared salad and dressings
Think you are being healthy with a salad?
Bags of salad are now the 2nd biggest cause of food poisoning in the EU.
Even though salad is healthy, bagged salads have been processed.
Also, commercial salad dressings are loaded with oils and preservatives which are very unhealthy.
5. No added sugar/sugar free
There are multiple ways food manufacturers are allowed to disguise sugar.
Corn syrup, cane juice and fructose are all the same thing: sugar.
But this way the food manufacturer can have some healthier sounding ingredient in their product. This is a clever way to mask the amount of sugar in a product.
They can even add the word fruit flavoured and this greatly misleads us into thinking it is actually healthy.
What can you do about it?
It may seem overwhelming and that whatever you buy it’s going to be unhealthy.
But by following a couple of simple principles to become more conscious of food it can be simple to make healthier food choices.
Keep and open critical mind
If you’re buying a food product ask yourself the following questions…
Has the product been through a factory process?
Are there more than 2 – 3 ingredients in a product?
Are there any ingredients listed that you don’t know what the hell they are?!
Does it have a long shelf life?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, my advice would be to avoid at all costs.
Buy whole foods that are cheaper and focus on simple meals
Don’t buy a product just because it has a good looking label or is from a known brand.
If it has lots of colourful labelling and packaging, it is likely they have done this to cover up the fact that it is unhealthy in reality.
Buy whole foods which have been minimally processed.
Fruit, vegetables, oats and legumes really are much cheaper than expensive packaged products.