You Are What You Eat

By / Magazine / June 22nd, 2010 / 1

…but only 38 per cent of Canadians know what’s in their food.

According to a recent national survey, the majority of Canadians (65 per cent) always read food labels but only 38 per cent recognize all the ingredients in the food they buy. The survey, by Leger Marketing highlights the growing trend toward simple, preservative-free foods. The fact that Maple Leaf Foods is the company that commissioned the survey is significant. It could potentially mean that one of the largest producers of ready-to-eat products is coming around to the idea that consumers are looking for healthier choices.

Here’s what the survey revealed:

• 58 per cent of consumers are unable to pronounce the ingredients in the foods they buy regularly.

If we don’t recognize the ingredient, how are we supposed to be able to make informed choices? When less common ingredient names are given, it not only makes it difficult to judge whether or not the ingredient is healthy overall; but, figuring out if there are any allergens contained within the product is even more challenging. Milk, alone, can go by twenty different names. You’d have to carry around a specialized thesaurus just to make sure you’re avoiding it.

• 27 per cent of shoppers only buy products made with natural ingredients.

Although I found that number to be shockingly low, it does indicate that consumers are responding positively to the back-to-basics trend and are seeking out products made with natural ingredients. The old “buyer beware” still holds true here despite changes in how products are made. Ultimately, food manufacturers want to make sure that they’re making products that people recognize — not just in terms of packaging, but also in terms of the colour, smell and taste of the food. Sodium nitrite, for instance, is a natural substance used to give meat an appealing red colour (think hot dogs); but, there are also claims that it’s a carcinogen. So, seeing a label marked “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is healthier. Doing a bit of research, and making your own informed choices will go a long way in helping you navigate those grocery store aisles.

Maple Leaf Foods has introduced its Natural Selections series made, says David Grachnik, Marketing Manager for Natural Selections, “with our finest cuts of meat plus simple, pronounceable ingredients like vinegar, lemon and sea salt.” There are other brands, too, that strive to do the same thing — President’s Choice and Hormel’s, for example. Ultimately, the best thing we can do for our own health is to limit intake of processed foods. I know that cooking from scratch takes a whole lot longer than heating up a package of prepared food in the microwave. Start small. Make one large batch of food a week.

You’ll be glad you did.



Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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