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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Read Those Labels!

Today's Diet Tip:  Hydration is extremely important when combining exercise with dieting.  Aim for drinking eight 8 oz glasses of filtered water daily.

I'm a label reader, both nutritional and ingredient labels.  These labels have a significantly higher influence on what I buy than price does.  I will often put a food product back on the shelf just on the basis of one of those labels.  A study published in the journal Agricultural Economics which found that women who read the labels on food packaging are nearly 9 lbs lighter than those who don’t.  Impressive!

President's Choice Blonde Brew front of can
Food manufacturers are constantly changing their products usually as a cost cutting measure.  The changes they make may or may not affect the nutritional value of their modified product.  In most cases, the change will.  Unless the product is labelled in such a fashion as to draw your attention to the changes, chances are very good you may not notice them.

We were preparing for our monthly games night in December.  I ask my husband to pick up more non-alcoholic beer.  I like to keep both non-alcoholic beer and wine on hand for those who choose not to drink alcohol.  Both are good for cooking as well for adding flavour without alcohol.  He brought home two cases of President's Choice Blond Brew.  I noticed one case said 80 calories per can and the other said 50 calories per can!  It was a fluke I caught the difference because usually the old label has been discarded so can't be compared to the new one.

President's Choice Blonde Brew nutritional value
I compared the nutritional values on both cans.  On the surface a drop in calories is a good thing especially for those counting calories.  The 80 calorie version has 55 mg of potassium which is now missing from the 50 calorie version. The 80 calorie version has 17 g (2 g sugar) carbohydrates while the 50 calorie version has 9 g (3 g sugar).   The 80 calorie version is not a significant source of sodium while the 50 calorie version has 10 mg of sodium.  Clearly what they did was add salt and sugar likely because they added a bit more water as a cost cutting measure.  So I called Loblaws Inc. to inquire about the change.  The 50 calorie version is the new version with the older 80 calorie version being phased out.

When food manufacturers change a product, they often increase water, salt or sugar as a cost cutting measure.  Changing the oil in a product is another common change, quite often to a GMO oil like canola.  Be sure to check the labels often even for those products you buy on a regular basis.  Chances are you will notice these types of changes from time to time.

Pepsi and Coke front of cans
I'm not a soda drinker but we do have soda in the house for entertaining.  There has long been a debate over which is better, Coca-Cola or Pepsi.  Well, the short answer is neither are a healthy drink but then they aren't claiming to be. However, many do enjoy them so the question when dieting becomes which is the better nutritional choice.   If you are counting calories, indulging in one can will not sabotage your diet as long as you have a calorie deficit for that day.  On the other hand, a can of your favourite cola will add about 150 calories to your caloric intake for the day without adding any real nutritional value.  Sodas do earn their title of empty calories for a reason!

Pepsi and Coke nutritional values
Pepsi has just slightly better numbers when it comes to calories and sugar although the carbohydrate content is the same.  Pepsi has almost a third of the amount of sodium, something that would be of interest for those on a sodium restricted diet.  On that note, for those who enjoy soda, the choice comes down to personal preference.

Beverages are one of the worst foods for dieting because they contain a high caloric content.  Three colas can add as much as 480 calories to your caloric intake which is a lot if you are on a 1,200 calorie diet!  Fatburn offers a free activity burn tool so you can easily calculate how long to spend doing the activity of your choice to burn of your beverage calories in order to create your calorie deficit to help you reach your weight goals.

Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Complete verses Arrowhead Mills Buttermilk pancake mix
Pancake and waffle mix remains a popular pantry staple even though it is less to make from scratch.  However, there are times that the mix comes in handy.  The bottom line with mixes is they are always more expensive than a mix from scratch.  It is important to read those labels because with mixes especially, there is more to it than calories.  My husband brought back a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix from hunt camp.  I brought a bag of Arrowhead Mills pancake mix back from our vacation home.  I had bought it for when the guys were down for their golf week.  How do these two mixes compare and which is the better choice?
 
Aunt Jemima verses Arrowhead nutritional values
Food manufacturers use another tactic that quickly becomes confusing to shoppers.  The Arrowhead Mills pancake mix is 140 cal for 1/4 c and the Aunt Jemima mix is 150 cal for 1/3 c.  Unless you read carefully, the Arrowhead Mills pancake mix appears to be the better caloric value for those counting calories.  However, to make a fair comparison the caloric values need to be converted to the same units so I converted the 1/4 c values to 1/3 c values.  [Conversion:  1/3 = .33, 1/4 = .25, (value)(.33)/.25 = converted value, example using calories:  (140)(.33)/.25 = 184].  The corrected value for the Arrowhead Mills is 184 cal for 1/3 c so it is 34 calories more than the equivalent amount of Aunt Jemima mix.  In terms of nutritional value though, the Arrowhead Mills is lower in total fat, lower is sodium, considerably higher in potassium, higher in fiber, higher in protein and lower in sugar.  It also contains no soybean oil (GMO) or bleached flour that the Aunt Jemima mix has.  Even though it is 34 calories more, the Arrowhead is nutritionally a better value than the Aunt Jemima mix.  It uses organic whole grain flour and organic enriched wheat flour.  I would rather cut those 34 calories somewhere else (eg. a bit smaller pancakes) in favour of a higher nutritional quality product and sometimes that becomes the choice in the quest for healthier eating.  


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