Reading the ingredients list is key

This article is about a few things, but it stems from when I had a client ask me about Greek yogurt the other day. He said that he heard it was good for him, but in reading the ingredients (nice to know someone is listening) he noted that the stuff he had in his hands was indeed not healthy. He then had the impression that Greek yogurt was bad. Not true.

Greek yogurt is in fact, great. But (and this is the important part), like all foods in a package, you have to read the label. Greek yogurt itself, the good stuff, in the plain version, has ingredients that state skim milk, bacterial cultures. That’s it. No fat, no trans fat, no crap, and 18g of protein in a 3/4 cup (175g) serving.

Compare to the same amount of regular yogurt and you will find only 6 – 8g.

Plus, you can use Greek yogurt to replace the mayonnaise in potato salad (add a little mustard), or replace sour cream with it. It is amazing for breakfast with fresh fruit stirred into it with muesli cereal and some powdered stevia and almond slivers.

Back to my original point though, my friend grabbed a Greek yogurt off the dairy shelf and found these ingredients — skim milk, cream, active bacterial cultures, strawberry preparation (sugar, strawberries, corn starch, lemon juice concentrate, carrageenan, natural colour, natural flavours). Now this once healthy idea isn’t. In a mere 100g serving, you find 1.5g of fat, including .5g of hidden trans fats, and 11g of sugar – similar to a bowl of Froot Loops!! (12g), and only 8g of protein (because they dropped the serving size down to get the trans fats below .5g per serving, so they could claim ‘zero trans fats’, which is a marketing trick.) To compare accurately, let’s do the math of bumping the serving size up from 1/3 cup (100g) to the same as the healthy Greek yogurt at 3/4 cup (175g). That would make the flavoured Greek yogurt have 158 calories, 14g protein, 2.63g of fat (.88g trans fat) and a whopping 19g of sugar per real world ‘serving’. This is now junk food, with protein.

Why would they do this? Somehow, marketing people are convinced that we cannot handle something plain and healthy, so they pump our products full of sugar to feed our addiction and ruin an otherwise healthy choice, but what bugs me, is that they do so under the disguise of ‘healthy food’.

The bottom line is you must read food labels, and that is precisely why my client called me to clear up the confusion.

Back to my previous point, let me ask you a question — which is better for you ‘Froot Loops’, or ‘Heart Smart Healthy Start’ cereal? Reading the label, we find that Froot Loops has 110 calories, 1g of fat (including a hidden 0.5g trans fat), and 12g of sugar in a one cup serving. Not great, but we kind of knew that right?

The ‘Heart Smart’ cereal? In 1.25 cup serving, it has 230 calories, 2g of fat (including a hidden 0.5g trans fat), and (get this) 17g of sugar! Now, you might be thinking it is fruit sugar or some other healthy sugar, but it isn’t. A read through the ingredients list shows sugar, glucose, corn syrup, modified corn syrup etc. as the top ingredients.

This sort of marketing manipulation goes on and on, and the real truth of it all is we must as a society read food labels for everything we buy that isn’t fresh.

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, nuts and seeds, eggs, all that stuff is easy – it still comes in the original packaging. When you get to anything in a bag, container, box or can – you simply have to read the label.

Just because it says ‘healthy’ – don’t buy it until you read the ingredients. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients and do not recognize them, move on.

The less chemicals you put in your body, the healthier you will be, we were simply not designed to do anything else. As for Greek yogurt, it is absolutely fantastic (if you get the right one).

Happy training!