Food is the fuel that runs our bodies. We say that we are what we eat, but that doesn’t mean that we turn into the food. It means we take the nutrients out of the food, just like we take wood out of trees. We use wood to build houses, and we use food to build our minds and our bodies. Choosing food well is important. It affects how healthy we are. It affects how well children do in school and adults do with their daily lives.
Why don’t we just automatically choose the food that’s best for us? Sometimes we don’t know what to look for. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and information tempting us to try this brand of food, this tasty treat, or misleading product promotions telling us that we can be healthier if we just buy this new product. We need to learn how to be “Nutrition Detectives” and know exactly what foods we are consuming and how those foods affect the health and education of our children and families. No matter what your budget, by learning to be an informed nutrition label reader, you can provide healthy food and snack alternatives that will give your children an edge as they grow and learn.
We all want to be healthy and have energy to do the things we enjoy. So make good food choices, and help your family to make the most of the food they consume. By becoming Nutrition Detectives, you have the power to do that!
The concept of becoming a “Nutrition Detective” was developed in 2009 by Dr. David Katz and his wife, Catherine Katz, Ph.D. Their goal is to educate children to play a part in their own nutrition and health but teaches parents valuable information along the way. The following are 5 rules taken from the Nutrition Detective program that can help you get started in helping your children learn ways to make healthy food choices that will enhance their lives, minds, and learning potential.
The 5 Clues for Nutrition Detectives™
1. Don’t be fooled by the BIG letters on the front of the package. Look for the small letters on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list.
The front of a food package is like a commercial to talk you into buying that product. Don’t be fooled by the ads on the front. Look for the true facts on the food label and ingredient list.
2. The FIRST ingredient on the list is always the BIGGEST!
The ingredients are always listed in the order of quantity. A food is mostly made up of the ingredients that come first.
3. Avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup
Look for these words on a busy nutrition label. If you find these words, you will know that the food contains unhealthful ingredients. Try to choose a more healthful food.
4. Avoid foods with a LONG INGREDIENT LIST!
Look for shorter ingredient lists. Foods with shorter lists tend to be more wholesome. They usually have fewer added ingredients that your body doesn’t need, such as flavor enhancers, preservatives, or dyes.
5. Fiber is your friend! Beware of whole grain imposters. Choose breads, cereals, granola bars, crackers & pasta with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
Look for products made from whole grains. They should contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. Products that have less fiber or don’t say “whole grain” on the label are whole grain “imposters.”