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Learn Basic Label Skills: Sugar & Carbs! Wow your friends, amaze your surgeon, impress your nutritionist. (also good for losing weight!)
After our bariatric surgery people assume we can figure out the label reading and fend for ourselves. We are given a few printed pages and sent on our way. NEWSFLASH! If label reading and nutrition were our strong point, we wouldn’t have needed WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY. Here are some of the very basic skills as a starter to build on. The questions asked in our Facebook Support Group tell us that this is an area that is greatly overlooked in pre op preparation and classes for bariatric surgery and that’s okay as we are here to help you. We’ve all been there!
WHO KNEW THAT THE SUGAR FROM MILK COUNTS AS SUGAR ON A LABEL! If someone had just told me this, it would have saved me hours of shivering in front of the dairy cooler, reading labels and wondering why I was supposed to eat yogurt if it had so many carbs and what about all the sugar? Even the Plain Yogurt had sugar!??!!??? Huh? Tomatoes have natural sugar too… and Sweet Peppers… and Strawberries… and Peaches. These are not the sugar grams we are on the look out for when in small amounts… ADDED sugar is the problem and paired with additional carbs can slow our weight loss or even reverse it.
PEAS… FAT FREE & GLUTEN FREE!
The other day at the store, I saw a package of chicken that said Gluten Free. I’m pretty sure that chicken has always been gluten free. Of course GLUTEN FREE is there to influence us, as many of us automatically think HEALTHY, just like when FAT FREE or LOW CARB was meant to subliminally convey healthy in their day. The point is, don’t let labels fool you with claims of All Natural, Gluten Free, Organic, Low Fat, Low in Carbohydrates, 100% Fruit… even a frozen fruit bar with ‘No Added Sugar can contain enough natural sugar to drop a gastric bypass post op to their knees. Never assume that because something has health claims on the label that its a good choice for you. READ EVERY LABEL.
Ruling OUT foods
I spent a lot of my early post op time staring at the Nutrition Fact boxes on labels when really there are just three things that were important: Grams of Sugar, Grams of Carbs, Servings per Container. I have a little routine I go through when I pick up a product from the shelf to quickly rule it out. If it passes these 3 quick general tests, I consider it a little deeper. This plus INGREDIENTS tells me all I need to know. For the 15 years since my bariatric surgery, I read every label the same way.
1. SUGAR – if a serving has 8 grams or more, it goes back on the shelf. Boom. Done.
2. If not, then CARBOHYDRATES – if a serving has 15 grams or more, back on the shelf. Done.
3. If not, then Servings per Container/Serving Size to make sure there isn’t any foolery like a too small serving or 3 servings for a bottle of drink that’s unlikely to be shared.
4. Locate INGREDIENTS on the container. They are listed in the order of most to least. If sugar is listed in either the One, Two, or Three spot, this food is not for someone who has had Obesity Surgery and it goes back on the shelf.
Let’s Try one for Fun
Someone posted a photo of this snack food in our Facebook Support Group and asked if it was okay to have it. Companies try to get you to buy their product and this one touted Reduced Sugar and talked a lot about FRUIT on the front, when this product is not much more than candy. There is no nutrition here.
- Sugar at 8 grams, it goes back on the shelf. No need to look further, but if we did…
- then Carbohydrates 18 grams, so back on the shelf! Done
When you look at the Ingredients, you can see that these are made from concentrated fruit sugar, corn syrup, sugar and more fruit sugar. This is a bad choice, this is NOT fruit and not good for anyone – do not feed it to your kids. This is why people have fat kids.
Spaghetti Sauce in a Jar 101
I am Italian but still use a jar of sauce now and then, but it has to be GOOD sauce with real ingredients that I would use in my kitchen. Look for hidden sugar in pasta sauce or even salsa. Sugar is in lots of packaged foods as it makes things yummier and softer and moister and even makes them more lip smackin. Look at this jar of Prego which is touted as being not only HEALTHY but Heart *SMART* and 100% Natural too! Let’s use our test.
- Sugar at 10 grams, this goes BACK ON THE SHELF!
Please notice that in Ingredients, sugar is in the number 4 spot.
Compare to Mario Batali Cherry Tomato Marinara Sauce and let’s use our test
- Sugar at 2 grams, so it passes
- then Carbs at 5 grams, so it passes
- Serving size is a generous 1/2 cup, so there is no manipulation of portion size
- INGREDIENT list has NO form of sugar at all and actually reads like a recipe
This is a GREAT product… the 2 grams of sugar comes from natural sugar in the vegetables that make up the sauce. Make a fast and healthy supper with Zucchini Noodles, ground beef and a jar of Mario Batali Cherry Tomato Marinara!
Mmmm mmmm good? Tomato Soup
Early after surgery we all look towards canned soup as we are told the Full Liquid phase includes CREAM SOUPS. What the heck is a cream soup? Cream of Chicken, Cream of Mushroom? Yuk. Noooo… cream soups means a smooth texture, not that they have to be creamy or milk based! Many of us end up with Cream of Tomato by default. Let’s apply our test to Campbell’s Creamy Tomato Soup.
- Sugar at 16 grams, put it back on the shelf. Done. We don’t need to go any further, but for fun, look at the other tests! Shocking
- Carbs at 26 grams! Wow
- Serving size is 2 per container, so there is even manipulation of portion size as this is a small cup
- INGREDIENT list has 1. Tomato 2. Water 3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (!!!)
I used to think that a ‘light supper’ of a cup of Creamy Tomato Soup and a GRILLED CHEESE was healthy… omg, I never knew it was so UNHEALTHY!
- Sugar at 14 grams, so it goes BACK ON THE SHELF
- then Carbs at 21 grams, so it goes double back on shelf
- Serving size is a 1 cup, which isn’t a lot in a soup bowl and many would eat the whole can
- INGREDIENT list has Organic Cane Juice as 5th ingredient, which is another name for sugar
Even the ORGANIC soup, that is Light in Sodium, has 0 Trans Fat, No added MSG, No GMO’s, No Bioengineered Ingredients, is not a good choice for a bariatric meal. Go with a lentil or black bean or vegetable soup but still apply your four point test!
While all this seems like a lot of work… if you buy and cook fresh food like lean meats & seafood, vegetables & fruits, lower fat dairy and avoid packaged convenience foods, it makes all this a lot easier. With practice you can use the four points I have taught you to quickly exclude foods or when they pass, consider then more carefully in regards to protein and nutrients. Next time we tackle yogurt and protein.