Archive for the tag - ingredients

What’s Really In Chicken Nuggets?

Hey Davey,

I’m actually a bit afraid to ask… but what’s really in a chicken nugget? I’m afraid to ask because I really like them, but maybe it’s time for me to learn the truth.

From,
Ben

6a00d834520b4b69e20147e203ea64970bHey Ben,

While it sometimes seems better not knowing what’s in the food we eat, ignorance isn’t bliss. Once we know the truth, we can make smarter and better informed decisions about our consumption habits.

As it turns out, the University of Mississippi Medical Center did a study on fast food chicken nuggets to find out what’s really inside. By essentially performing a chicken nugget autopsy on two different brands, researchers discovered that less than half of a chicken nugget is actually meat. The remainder being a mixture of fat, connective tissue, skin, blood vessels and even bone. In fact, one of the chicken nuggets was 40% skeletal muscle.

While it’s all technically edible, it’s still pretty gross – and it’s not a healthy food choice.

According to one researcher:

Some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it, and still call it chicken. It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice.

But wait, there’s more.

McDonald’s, in particular, has stirred up controversy for including Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) as one of their chicken McNugget ingredients. Although TBHQ is found in some other foods like Girl Scout Cookies and Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, it’s also petroleum-based and a lot like lighter fluid. The FDA limits its use to 1 gram per 5,000 grams in cooking.

For a full list of ingredients in your favorite brand of chicken nuggets, I recommend a quick Google search. Each company has the full ingredients listed on their website. While you may not recognize many of the ingredients by name, you’ll quickly realize that most chicken nuggets have a lot more in them than just chicken.

Love,
Davey

Tips to Avoid Processed Foods.

processed-foodOnce upon a time, human beings ate whole, real food. But as the world evolved and progressed, our eating habits regressed – and the desire for real food was replaced with the desire for packaged convenience. The problem is, many processed foods are high in the things we need to consume less of – like added sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats.

Truth be told, I don’t like the idea of “avoiding” unhealthy foods. If we try to avoid or resist something, we’re still giving it our energy, time and thought. Instead, I think it’s better to replace those habits that aren’t serving us with habits that do.

Instead of avoiding processed foods, let’s discover the joys of real food.

And here are a few tips to do just that.

  1. Spend more time on the perimeter of the supermarket. That’s where you’ll find real food like turkey, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit and more. The more shopping you do in this area, the more likely you are to include whole foods in your menu.
  2. Read the ingredients. A good indicator of processing is the ingredients list. As a general rule, fewer ingredients are better. And if the ingredients are something that would be found in your grandmother’s pantry, it’s a great sign. Be especially leery of added sugars which are often disguised with clever names like dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maltose, etc.
  3. Buy more foods that aren’t in bags or boxes. It goes without saying that packaged foods are more likely to be highly processed. If you can pick up an actual food product without a layer of packaging between you – like a head of lettuce or a cantaloupe – you know you’re on the right track.
  4. Eliminate foods with marketing gimmicks. You won’t see labeling like “just add water!” or “reduced fat” on a bunch of carrots. If the packaging sounds like an infomercial, it’s likely a highly processed food product.

As a closing thought, I’d like to bust the myth that processed foods are more convenient. If you’re hungry and want convenience, grab an apple. What’s easier than that? Done.

What to Look for on Nutrition Labels.

nutritionlabelDeciding whether a food product is healthy can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, nutrition labels make things easier and give you an even playing field. You just need to know what to look for.

When doing my grocery shopping, there are five major nutrition label elements to which I pay attention.

  1. Saturated and trans fat. Fat gets a bad rap. But the truth is, not all fats are created equal. And your body does need some essential, good fats to function properly – and that’s why some fats like olive oil can be part of a healthy diet. It’s the saturated and trans fats that you’ll want to limit or avoid. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to 7% of total daily calories. If you need 2,000 calories a day, that means 140 calories from saturated fats – which translates to about 16 grams per day. Trans fats should be limited to less than 1% of total daily calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 20 calories from trans fats or about 2 grams of trans fats per day. Consuming excessive amounts of these bad fats can increase your bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, increase stroke, heart disease and type II diabetes risk.
  2. Calories. When it comes to calories, the first thing to understand is your daily caloric requirement. Based on the Harris Benedict Calculator, most people will find that they need between 2,000 and 2,5000 calories a day to stay in a neutral state. Once you know how many calories you need, it’s easier to make smarter choices. Many seemingly innocuous foods and beverages are packed with calories but totally devoid of nutrients. Spend your calories wisely!
  3. Sugar. Many sugary foods are labeled as fat-free. Marshmallows, for example, are marketed as a fat-free food. And while they don’t contain any fat, they will still make you fat thanks to a very high sugar count. I like to limit sugar to less than 10 grams per portion, especially when it comes to breakfast cereals and smoothies – both of which can be secret sugar bombs. Sugar consumption has been associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol, type II diabetes, weight gain and even aging of the skin.
  4. Ingredients. Read the ingredients. If you find things that aren’t in your grandmother’s pantry, view it as a red flag. As a general rule, it’s wise to go with food that’s actually food – and not something that’s highly processed and loaded with chemicals. If you can’t even pronounce it, do you really want to eat it? Also, know that there are many ingredients that are really just sugar in disguise (here are 45 other names for sugar). If sugar is high on the ingredient list, opt for something else.
  5. Serving size. Last but not least, look at the serving size. Marketers are clever; a food may seem healthier because the serving size is ridiculously small. Ice cream servings, for example, are often listed at one half of a cup. When was the last time you ever saw someone eat half a cup of ice cream? You’ll need to adjust the nutrition information depending on the size of the portion you’ll actually eat.

Of course, there are other important aspects of the nutrition label – like fiber content or vitamins and minerals – but these five elements are a great place to start. They’ll set you on a smarter path and help you make some easy upgrades to your diet.

What do you look for on nutrition labels? Let me know in the comments below!