I’ve always been a label reader. I pick up the package for almost anything I’m about to eat and check out calories, fat grams, saturated fat and sodium. I like to know bad news. Depending on whether or not I’m really committed to what I’m about to consume, the news on the label may or may not change my mind.
Lately, I’ve been reading another part of the food label–the ingredients list. I have friends who are committing to eating food that is made with five ingredients or less. I’ve also been watching “Food Revolution” and doing some additional reading that’s causing me to be more aware about what I am eating and buying for my family to eat. The five ingredient rule is good, but another good rule is to read the ingredient list and look for words for chemicals and preservatives and words I don’t know.
Yesterday, I was washing and cutting up strawberries for our after school program and Dave, our custodian, was keeping me company. We started talking about food and ingredients and natural and organic and high fructose corn syrup and all of those things. He started pulling stuff out of the refrigerator and the cabinets and reading ingredient lists.
“Guess how many ingredients are in these 100 calorie cupcakes?” He asked me.
“53!” He exclaimed.
“Throw them out!” I replied.
The truth is, it’s really hard to stock a kitchen without buying things that have more than five ingredients. I mean, it’s easy if you’re already eating mostly raw, fresh foods. But our kitchen has a lot of canned and boxed items as well right now. This week, I went to the grocery store to pick up some things we needed and some ingredients for a new recipe I wanted to try. I picked up everything I was buying and read the label. If the item I picked up had way too many ingredients (like Dannon Yogurt), I picked up another brand (like Oikos Greek Yogurt) and compared it (Oikos won, by the way). Butter instead of margarine, one type of ricotta cheese over another, organic tomato sauce (I cooked Italian, by the way), bakery bread instead of frozen breadsticks.
Some things passed easily. Frozen Spinach: ingredients = Spinach.
Some things did not. Crystal Light: ingredients = lots of chemicals. No thanks, I guess…even though you’re yummy.
While I was at the store, I called Jason to tell him I would be cooking dinner. “What else are you buying?” He wanted to know.
“Well…milk, cereal (which, by the way, does NOT pass the five ingredient requirement, but I figured it was non-negotiable at this point at our house), coffee…”
“Get some lunch meat and cheese,” he requested.
“Yeah…about your cheese…do you know how many chemicals it has in the ingredient list?”
“Well, I’ve been eating it for nearly 40 years and I’m still alive.”
“Fine.” I said, defeated.
“The lunch meat is probably full of crap, too,” he suggested. “But I still want it.”
So, not everything I brought home passed the test. But it was a good start.
Guess what was some good news? Haagen Dazs Five: ice cream made with just five ingredients. But I’m going to have to hide it. I could only find it in little containers.