I have just learned a lesson.  A lesson I shouldn’t have had to learn given that I have cautioned others against this very problem! A lesson on a topic I thought I was well-versed in already. A lesson that was this:

Don’t presume that a food product is a healthy option just because it implies it to be on the packet...

From time to time I do online orders from websites that stock consumables and other health products that I can’t buy locally. My main objective for this particular shop was to buy some new large glass storage containers with air tight lids. Once I had found those and selected a few other kitchen items, I then proceeded to peruse the store’s selection of healthy snacks. I found some nice-looking baked potato chips and upon checking the ingredients, saw that they were purely potato, coconut oil and sea salt. I happily added them to my cart as a special lunchbox treat for the kids.

I then noticed another chip by the same company called, Baked Sweet Potato Fries followed with the descriptions of Lightly Salted and Made With Real Sweet Potatoes. Being that I was happy with the ingredients of the first packet of potato chips, I presumed that these ingredients would be the same; potato, coconut oil and salt. I quickly added them to my cart and checked out before I spent any more money!

Fast forward a few days and my order arrived via post. I always enjoy unpacking a delivery and quickly hopped into pulling each item from the newspapered depths of the big box. I got to the large bags of potato crisps and glanced over them. The pictures on the front of each pack looked great and I was happy with myself for finding something new to give the kids every now and then. I read the ingredients on the back of the first packet – the same three I’d read on the website – and then looked at the second bag, the sweet potato chips. Definitely not the same three ingredients! Not three ingredients at all – but ten! Regardless of what they are, ten ingredients for a natural potato chip? Ludicrous.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read the following ingredient list:

Corn meal, sunflower oil, sweet potato powder, evaporated cane sugar,  sea salt, rice flour, molasses powder, natural flavours, extractive of paprika and calcium carbonate.

What the? Why aren’t sweet potato chips just sweet potato? Why do food companies have to mess around with perfectly good ingredients resulting in a much less nutritious end product? This particular creation would be more accurately named “Corn Meal Stick Thingies Covered In Sunflower Oil With A Hint Of Sweet Potato Powder”. And what the hell is sweet potato powder anyway? Dried sweet spud, ground into a powder? Lord, give me strength!

There may be some people reading this and thinking, ‘those ingredients aren’t so bad, what’s the problem?’ Well, here’s my lowdown on each one:

Corn meal: In itself, not really that bad I guess. The packet states that all ingredients are non GMO. Genetically modified crops can be the concern with some corn, but apparently not in this instance. While it’s a fairly natural product on its own, combined with the other ingredients and fashioned into a chip shape, it’s a whole lot more processed than if they logically and simply sliced sweet potato into lengths. When trying to eat a diet consisting of as many wholefoods as possible, it’s not ideal.

Sunflower oil: Most vegetable oils are chemically extracted using solvents and other nasties to make the production process quick, cheap and the yield higher. The oil is then washed in chemicals during the refining process and finally, bleached to make it an attractive colour for bottling.  How often do you see on the ingredients list of a packaged item, cold-pressed olive oil? Not very often. This is due to the fact that sunflower and other vegetable oils such as canola and soybean can be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of quality cold-pressed, health-giving oil, due to this unnatural processing. Here is a link to a YouTube clip showing the production of canola oil if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cfk2IXlZdbI

There are a number of good articles on the subject too if you just Google ‘vegetable oil solvent extraction’.

Vegetable oils can often also be subject to hydrogenation. This is a chemical process which the oil undergoes so that it will be solid or partially solid at room temperature, instead of a liquid. This changes the natural configuration of the oil’s fat molecules to a state that is never found naturally in food. It results in the creation of TFA’s (trans fatty acids) or trans fats as you may heard them referred to. TFA’s have been linked to heart disease and cancer and many other problems within the human body.

Sweet potato powder: Upon researching this phenomenon, I discovered that there are a number of companies marketing SPP as a healthy complex carbohydrate for pre and post workout consumption. I also came across a method for making it at home as a way of using up excess sweet potatoes and preserving them for use later on in recipes. All well and good I suppose, and providing there’s not a whole heap of additives included in the production process, I guess this is a good concept. But for me it just comes back to the whole over-processing issue again. It’s just not logic to make a ‘sweet potato fry’ out of corn meal and then lace it with a vegetable powder rather than making it with potato to begin with. It’s a perfect example of how we have lost our way when it comes to the consumption of natural wholefoods.

Evaporated cane sugar: ECS is a just a fancy way to say sugar. I won’t go into the ills of refined sugars being added to our foods. There is plenty of information available on this topic and I’m sure you have read it and heard it all before. It’s just unnecessary for the sugar to be added. Maybe if whole sweet potatoes were used in the first place, there wouldn’t be a lack of flavour and sweetness resulting in the need for the added the sugar? Not really rocket science. I regularly make sweet potato wedges at home by simply adding olive or coconut oil and a little salt and they taste perfect. Whole, nutritious and perfect.

Sea salt: I haven’t got a problem with this ingredient. The actual amount included at 540mg per 100grams is probably on the high side but as this is a snack item to be eaten in small amounts on an irregular basis, it’s not really a problem for me.

Rice flour: I use rice flour in my home cooking from time to time. It’s a good gluten-free flour and is easy to use. I just wouldn’t expect to see it in a sweet potato chip. Again there would be no need for it if wholefoods were used.

Molasses powder: Another processed ingredient which I presume brings flavour and sweetness to the fries. There are worse ingredients out there, but again it seems an unnecessary inclusion and also raises the question in my mind as to what the ingredients of the molasses powder itself are? If a company buys in an ingredient to use in the production of their product, they aren’t legally required to list the components of that purchased ingredient on their own product’s ingredients list. I have read and heard of people calling companies to question them after reacting to a product which didn’t list their usual allergen on the ingredients list. After much probing, they have discovered that a purchased ingredient used in the production process contained their allergen but as it’s not a legal requirement, it wasn’t listed on the end product.

Natural flavours: This is an interesting ingredient to analyse and one that shocked me when I first learnt about it. We see the statement ‘No artificial flavours’ stamped proudly on the front of a lot of products as a way for the marketing gurus to give us some peace of mind that their product is natural and healthy. Right? Wrong.

‘Natural flavours’ are so close to their artificial cousins, there’s not much difference at all. Most of the time the only variance between artificial and natural strawberry flavour for example, is that the natural one started out with an actual strawberry somewhere in the mix before it was processed and had chemicals added to it, whereas the artificial flavour just never had the strawberry in there to begin with!

Added flavours, natural or artificial, can contain between 50 and 100 ingredients, most of which are man-made substances and chemicals with names beyond the easy pronunciation of the layperson. And yet we are led to believe that this is ok. How did adding synthetic substances to our foods, that our bodies can’t recognise, ever become acceptable? Here is a link to a good fact sheet on food additives including flavourings if you’d like to know more: http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/flavours-natural-or-artificial

Again if the product wasn’t so highly processed, the delicious naturally occurring flavours wouldn’t be depleted requiring a replacement. And the other point screaming to be made is, if the natural flavour is so bloody natural, why not just list the natural fruit, spice, vegetable etc that it was derived from as the ingredient? It’s wrong that the chemicals used in the place of a real food item can be called natural.

Extractive of paprika: Why not just plain old paprika? Extractive of paprika is an oil/resin type substance of the plant, usually extracted using chemical solvents.

Calcium carbonate: A mineral extracted from the ground, calcium carbonate serves many different purposes in our foods - as a preserver, colour retainer and anti-caking agent. It is also largely what makes up the calcium supplements we purchase from the chemist. The jury is still out as to whether it is completely safe for human consumption with many health experts suggesting that it isn’t absorbed or utilized as well as the calcium that occurs naturally in our foods, resulting in negative side-effects.

 
So there you go. Bit of an eye opener hey! When purchasing from a website with the word ‘Naturally’ in its name, a product containing ‘Authentic ’ within its name, in my opinion, one shouldn’t have to question the naturalness of the product. It should be a given that it is pure, natural and healthy. But that’s the world we live in. Food terms such as natural, fresh, organic and real are used far too loosely in this day and age and we suffer the consequences with our health.

I guess it comes back to eating as much real, fresh and unprocessed food as possible to avoid the trickery that goes on with the marketing of a lot of packaged goods. Keep it real with lots of fruit and veg, homemade snacks, fresh meat and quality dairy. Then when we do want to purchase some packaged items for the sake of convenience and fun, it’s important we go in with our eyes wide open and know exactly what’s in those products. Be informed and be aware.

We owe it to ourselves and our kids.

X

Leah
 
 
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I love when the start of a new month brings with it the start of other things, exciting and new.  Today is the 1st of February and also the start of my nutrition course with Changing Habits. A brand new chapter. I’m so excited to get started. I don’t think I’ve been this enthusiastic for anything in a while!

Someone recently asked me why I love food and health and why I want to study nutrition. My answer was fairly simple; I love food and the power it holds. I can’t think of anything better than helping people improve their health and consequently their lives by assisting them to change the way they eat.

And coinciding with the commencement of my course, in the midst of another person's new beginning, I have been given a taste of what that could be like. Of what really helping someone to make positive change in their life could feel like. And I must say it’s pretty amazing!

You see, I have a very dear friend who has been battling with her weight and her food choices for many many years. I’ve been there to listen to, and support her but have been careful not to ever push my ideas or values onto her. People have to be ready to hear the message they need to hear and the desire for real change needs to come from within themselves- not be thrust upon them by someone else. And I can now tangibly see how true that is. It’s hard to explain it, but it seems that something has changed in my friend. A switch has been flicked and her mindset has shifted. She has reached out and asked for help. She seems to be seeing herself and food in a new light. Its early days and we’ve only taken baby steps so far but it’s really inspiring and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her.

Have a read of what she had to say on the weekend and see for yourself the infectious enthusiasm she has for this new path she’s started along:

Day 2:  Why now? What is different? Has the switch been flicked? Is this it?

I have been listening to my own broken record for nearly 25 years! As the more years pass, the more bored of this record I get, it is a depressing record, a record that I know my loved ones hate hearing…over and over again…but no more than I hate listening to it…“this is it”, “I will do it this time”, “I am in the zone”, “I will never be this weight again”, “I am serious”, “There is no going back now”, I WILL do it”, “I have hit rock bottom, so this is it…no more!”…I hear the words come out of my mouth and I cringe, deep down knowing that I am full of shit and will be back eating donuts and Macca’s next week…do I care? YES…but caring has never seemed to be enough…even when I was diagnosed with severe hypertension and told that I would DIE of a stroke or heart attack if I didn’t control my weight. WTF! Once again, as I lay in the hospital having test after test, in tears, while my 4 and 7 year old cherubs were home concerned about their Mummy…the broken record started again…”This is it”, “I will do it this time”…”I have to…for my kids..for my future”…

I am 41 years old, 104.5kgs, now medicated for high blood pressure and have a doctor telling me I CAN FIX IT!...lose weight, move more, de-stress and everything will be ok… easier said than done!

Today is Day 2 and this is 6 months after I was in hospital…

I am a convenient food, fast food, processed, quick and easy food junkie.  As a family, we eat really well during the week.  Good brekkies, healthy lunches and basic balanced dinners…I am super busy, this is not an excuse…but the extras on the weekends and my need to eat Maccas and treat myself with donuts, Zig Zags and Coca-Cola is ridiculous.  I eat when I am sad, when I am happy, to celebrate, to reward, to be naughty…I love food…I have never made any excuses for being overweight, I am an educated woman…I eat too much of the wrong foods and don’t exercise enough.  It’s not rocket science. This makes it all very frustrating as I know what I need to do, but I just don’t do it….or do I?

Over the last 20 odd years I have had glimpses of success.  Before I got married, I joined a gym and worked hard for just over a year, lost 18kg and walked down the aisle at 83kg, still overweight but feeling a million bucks. I maintained that weight for 2 whole weeks, then gained 15kg in the following 3 months, fell pregnant and 2 children and 8 years later, I am back over 100kg and have maintained 95kg – 105kg this whole time. In that time, I have tried many ‘diets’ & ‘detoxes’…up and down like a bloody yo yo!

I have known Leah for nearly 8 years, my first ‘real’ friend in my new country home.  We met at mothers group and instantly connected.  Although opposites in so many areas (she has style and is slim…hahaha), we had lots in common and were on the same page with many life & parenting issues.  She has listened to my broken record many times and always showed concern and support.

If Leah and I were out and there were donuts & nuts in front of us, I always marvelled that she would choose to pick the nuts, a choice that I never would pick.  I would laugh and joke “This is why I am fat and you are not... hehehe”. Ouch.

I have followed Leah’s wellness journey from the beginning, watched her make some amazing changes to her life and turn her long term love of food and health into “Life’s Pantry”.  I have listened to her remarkable stories as she researched and educated herself about food.  I loved hearing how passionate she was, how committed she was…the more she learnt the more changes she implemented and I was often left thinking, I could never do that! I could never eat like that…

Leah has researched, educated and built a health blog called “Life’s Pantry”.  I love it and support it and we have had many discussions about how she can help me.  “Thanks so much Leah, but it’s just not for me…I fully support you, but I’ve got this…” I have always thought that…I don’t need help, I can do it on my own…deep down thinking, “I hate seeds and nuts, I hate all the foods she eats”... If I just eat less and move more…I don’t need help…oh god, there goes the broken record again. How depressing…

Leah is a huge fan of That Sugar Film, a film that I have heard all the rave reviews and listened to her share the information from it.  Could all this really be true? Despite being a clever cookie, I grew up in a world of Weight Watches and diets that were filled with low fat processed foods.  If it said Low Fat on the packet, then it had to be good for me…right?  I foolishly believed the corporations selling these products as healthy.  So, to discover that the many years of me cutting out fat, counting fat grams & calories and devouring low fat snacks and meals may not have been helping me at all was alarming.

Leah’s words are always with me…”If you need me, I can help, I want to help”.  I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for her to listen to my broken record, to see someone she cares about hurting, overweight and unwell. 

Ok…I need help. I can’t do this on my own.  How can she help? How can she help when I don’t like half the healthy food she eats…eeek…awkward!

I am completely honest and open with her and READY. Her support, her guidance, her knowledge, her BELIEF in me is motivating.  We have had a few ‘sessions’, lunch and coffee dates that have been leading me to this point.  One of the first things I needed to know (as a food lover) was…Can clean eating, wholefoods etc taste nice? Anything remotely like this I have tried has tasted like crap.  Day 1 was yesterday. Lunch with my new “food coach”, a plate served up with so many foods that I would NEVER prepare myself.  Salmon with roasted macadamias and pepitas, coleslaw with homemade mayo, salad, avocado and quinoa.  Looked amazing on the plate and was DELICOUS!

I was shocked, excited and scared all the same time.  She explained how easy it was to prepare and all my “I’m too busy” excuses flew out the window.  We sat in the kitchen and discussed some simple changes I can start with. We drank coffee and had a date/nut slice that blew my socks off with FLAVOUR and sweetness.  She will teach me about clean foods, wholefoods…foods that will result in me ‘fixing’ my blood pressure, losing 25kg (I know…daunting) and extending & improving my life…all through food…pretty powerful stuff! She will not push, she will not pressure.  She will educate, she will inspire, and she will find a balance for me as she knows that I choose not to cut out all the crap.  She will help me find foods that I will enjoy and that will nourish me.  Enjoying this type of food is vital to my success and she believes we will find the balance.

I came home after our ‘session’ and finally watched the movie that everyone is talking about! Geez, how could I have been so naïve about food? Maybe it isn’t as easy as eat less and move more.  It is however about the types of food I eat and this is what Leah will help me with.  I do need help and she can help…I won’t need to count calories or fat grams, I will eat full fat again, I will significantly reduce my sugar intake, I will enjoy what I eat, I will feel and see the changes…she is positive and this is infectious..

My ‘journey’ has begun (man, I hate that word, but it is the one that best describes it).  I have so many barriers…baby steps…I am confident that small changes will help…there is so much more I could write, but this is already a novel…so it’s time to sign off and wish myself LUCK, LOVE & HEALTH and HAPPINESS….



See what I mean? How great is that?! This is an amazing step in her life and I am so privileged to be helping her to take it.

We’ve kept in close contact these past few days and I am wrapt to report she is still well and truly on track, cooking and eating like I have never seen her do. It hasn't all been smooth sailing but she is committed and giving it her all. I can’t believe that with my course under my belt, I could do this on a daily basis; help people in this way every day.  I know people who have made a career out of their life’s passion but never thought that could happen to me. Now I think it could and probably will!

So here’s to new beginnings – all of them, vast and various, that life has to offer!

X

Leah