Are you a nutrition label reader?
Here's why it matters.
Listen, I usually drive my husband bananas having to stand in the supermarket and read the nutrition labels of everything that comes in a package, but here's why I do it.
Because packaging is designed to entice you to buy and consume - and companies are banking on you not reading the fine print.
And while they're not technically lying, some products do sprout some very questionable half truths.
Let me explain.
So the other day, Greg and I were headed to a friend's barbecue and we called into the supermarket to pick up a bit of party food (chippies, dip, meat, salad, you know, the usual). Since I was driving and wasn't drinking, I thought I'd buy some sparkling water and lemon so it still felt a bit festive.
I'm not big on soft drink as a rule - it's incredibly sweet, drinking all my calories feels like a waste to me, and don't get me started on "sugar free" sweeteners. Just yuk.
I mean, admittedly I love the heck out of a single serve bottle of Coca Cola every now and then, but as for something to drink all day?
A good flavoured sparkling water still makes your drink taste interesting, but it provides a lot of hydration and doesn't come packed with sugar.
Plus it's about $5 cheaper than kombucha.
We were hard pressed finding all the sparkling water, and time was of the essence. I found a bottle of "mineral water and lemon", grabbed it and we were off on our merry way.
As I poured myself a drink I thought it tasted a bit sweeter than usual (but I had just had a sip of margarita, so I thought maybe I just had a salty palate).
However, throughout the afternoon, I got a weird, sickly sweet feeling in my belly and a throbbing headache. I also felt really dehydrated, and I thought - that's weird - I've been drinking mineral water all day.
And that, boys and girls, is when I looked at the label.
I thought I was buying straight sparkling mineral water with lemon flavour. What I'd actually bought instead was glorified lemonade marketed as mineral water.
It had sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sulphites.
Each cup was worth about 106 calories and 26 g of carbohydrates (about the same as a whole slice of bread). Unlike a slice of bread however, those 26 g of carbs were straight sugar.
This sucker even had the audacity to advertise "50% less sugar" on the label (which I also obviously didn't read - that would have been a red flag).
Less sugar than what, exactly? By comparison, there are only 22 g of sugar in the same amount of Kirk's lemonade.
Okay now listen. If soft drink floats your boat, far be it from me to tell you not to make room for it in your journey.
I'm all for you making a conscious choice to buy a bottle of soft drink and enjoying it, but what bothers me is when people think they're making a healthy choice and get duped into purchasing unhealthy food instead, and then feel understandably confused when they don't seem to get results.
Companies are sneaky! They'll market the weirdest stuff as health food:
Protein bars with more calories, fat and sugar than a Snickers
Vegan burgers with more trans fats than a Whopper Jnr
Cereal so loaded with sugar you might as well just pour milk over a bowl full of TEX bars
That's why it pays to get wise about what you're buying.
Hey - if you're choosing between snack bars, one is a "whipple-scrumptious caramel fudge bar" and the other is a "BroScience Superfood Power Bar", both have the same number of fat, calories, and carbohydrates but one tastes like it was made by the hand of God Almighty and the other tastes like sawdust, which would you rather indulge in?
It's nothing but clever marketing designed to make you buy their product, and pay $3 extra for the privilege because it's got "healthy" on the label.
All that said, there are some products that do live up to their name and are healthy choices - so how do you know what to buy?
Here's how not to get caught out, and make informed choices about what you're buying at the supermarket.
Serving size: How big is a standard portion of this meal? These vary product to product.
Calories: This gives you a rough estimate of the calories in one portion. It's not exact - and that's why I don't think counting calories works. However, it does give you a good picture of what you're working with. Some knowledge of the calories in certain foods can be helpful.
Per 100g: This column provides a good benchmark for you to compare the nutrient levels in two different products per 100 g and is far more efficient than standing in the biscuit aisle trying to do brain maths to work out the difference in serving size and carbohydrate ratio between Tim Tams and Scotch Fingers.
Total fat: Current government guidelines recommend looking for foods with less than 10 g of fat per 100 g. However, for milk, yoghurt and ice cream, look for products for less than 2 g per 100 g. It's different again for cheese - look for less than 15 g per 100 g.
Carbohydrates: Carbs are good for us, so don't flip out if a product looks to be high in carbs. Instead, pay close attention to the two sub-columns beneath: sugar and fibre.
Sugar: Sugar is also not the enemy - our body needs it in small quantities to function normally. However, most people who eat a balanced diet get ample natural sugar from fruits, dairy and other sources, so rather than avoiding sugar completely, just try to limit lots of added sugar. A good rule of thumb is less than 15 g per 100 g. If you see a higher figure than this, make sure that sugar (or honey, sweetener, maple syrup, glucose, or anything ending in -ose et cetera) isn't listed among the top ingredients. If it isn't (or there's no sugar added), it's probably okay - especially if it has fruit in it.
Fibre: High fibre foods make life better - so much better. If a food is high in carbs and fibre, it's likely a good choice. Fibre keeps you full and keeps the wheel greased, if you know what I mean. Not all nutrition labels have fibre levels listed, and many foods won't naturally be high in fibre anyway, but when you're particularly choosing a cereal or bread, look for a fibre content of at least 3 g per serve.
Sodium: Our bodies need salt - but most of us get plenty of it through bread and naturally occurring foods. Keep a watchful eye on added sodium in products - too much of it can bloat you and over time can even have health implications. Any product with less than 400 mg per 100 g is considered low in sodium - although government guidelines suggest less than 120 mg per 100 g is best.
Now, like I said - you don't have to do this with everything you buy. If you just want to buy a packet of Tim Tams so you can eat Tim Tams, go for it and don't even read that nutrition label.
But if you're shopping for foods that can help you with your fitness goals and want to make informed choices, knowing a bit about the nutrition label can really help you stay on track and not get accidentally caught out.
If you want more information on how to read nutrition labels like a pro, head to these accredited resources for a bit of light reading:
And that's on nutrition labels, team. Have you ever got caught out with sneaky "health food" advertising before?
I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments.
Now, on to the Captain's Log for yesterday. I've been documenting my own 90 day journey to get in the best shape of my life, rediscovering my passion for fitness and promoting a healthy lifestyle. If you've just joined us here on Day 8, head to the bottom of the post to get caught up on Days 1 through 7.
Breakfast this morning was my favourite - oatmeal - with frozen raspberries and yoghurt. For some reason I just feel like the day goes better when I start my morning with oatmeal.
Lunch was the same old ham, cheese and tomato toastie as Monday.
When I find a favourite I tend to stick with it for a while, don't I, which makes lunchtime economical and practical but makes blogging about my food rather boring, I'm afraid. Anyhoo.
So dinner tonight was a bit of a "throw together" meal - you know the kind where you finish work late, you haven't done any grocery shopping, and your tummy's rumbling.
The criteria for tonight was that it had to be fast, simple and as nutritious as possible. So, with the help of herbs, spices, vegetable stock and about three different cans, I whipped up a chickpea pumpkin curry.
Literally so easy and took minutes to make - after simmering vegetable stock with bay leaves, curry powder, fresh chilis from our chili bush, and various other spices, I added a can of pumpkin soup, a can of chickpeas and a can of peas and corn.
I served it over half a cup of rice and dinner was served in less time than it would take Uber Eats to get to our house. A nutritious plant based meal with lots of protein, veggies, anti-inflammatory properties, and grounding slow release carbs.
Isn't going to win any beauty pageants, is it, but I tell you what, it really hit the spot. Sometimes you have to get a little creative to stay on track, you know?
We are lacking desserts in the Day household at this very moment. I wasn't terribly hungry after dinner anyway, I more just had a specific chocolate craving, so I satiated it with a tablespoon of Nutella. Mm. Heaven.
The workout I pulled out of my trusty old 1980s workout VHS cupboard (read: YouTube) was something a bit fun and different.
Okay, but does anyone remember Mousercise? It used to be on the Disney channel and the instructor, together with the Fab 5, led you through an aerobics workout to Disney songs.
Well, I found some videos on YouTube and had the best time ever revisiting my childhood and getting in a quick 20 minutes of cardio. I was surprised to be sweating by the end - there was a finisher to Stepping Time that kicked my butt!
Following that, I did another virtual Body Pump class - this time, I focused on Squats, Back, Shoulders and Abs and skipped the chest and lunges track.
Holy cow, was I a puddle on the floor by the end of that workout! However, I feel so proud of myself.
I know it's only been a week, but I'm already noticing how much faster I'm recovering, and how much exercise I can tolerate before I physically can't go on any further. I think a lot of it is mental - I would give up on a workout long before my body was done.
Over time, I feel like I'm building self discipline and self belief. I'm finding joy and motivation in the journey, instead of just obsessing over the end goal.
I've got to say, it's making all the difference. For the first time ever, being on a weight loss journey feels fun and empowering - the way fitness should be.
I've loved this first week of my 90 day journey and I can't wait to keep sharing my adventures with you.
On that note, let's finish today with a quick motivation huddle.
Even when it's tough. Even when you slip up.
Even when you think you don't got this.
Even when you feel like it would just be so much easier to go back to the way things were.
Even when you think you can't do it.
Believe in yourself!
As Kristina Kuzmic says "you're already doing it"!
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep doing the next right thing.
Get plenty of sleep, take rest days, make sure you’re getting enough good quality fuel, drink your water, and most importantly enough?
Keep showing up, keep levelling up, and never give up!
I know we’ve got this.
Until tomorrow, keep shining bright.