Sunday, 20 May 2012

Are You Being Deceived By Food Labels - Screen Your Fats

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Thanks to my shopping experience at Marks & Spencer today, I was compelled to share this story with you.  I believe all my readers are now shopping savvy.  If not, please read Be Shopping Savvy.

I was so excited about the prospect of MAC Cosmetics shopping with a girlfriend this afternoon.  I knew that my body needed sustenance before proceeding with the next hour of blissful shopping, so I headed to Marks & Spencer for a quick lunch stop.

After settling on pita bread and houmous, I automatically reached for the reduced fat version of ordinary houmous made with extra virgin olive oil.  I quickly glanced at the fats which stated 19g of fat per 100g.

Houmous is not a low fat food.  I would class this as moderately high in fats.  I make allowance for this as chickpeas are an excellent source of both protein and slower releasing carbohydrates. 

Houmous is usually prepared by blending chickpeas with tahini and vegetable oils such as olive or rapeseed oil.  Although tahini is rich in fats, only a small proportion of these are saturated fats.  Olive and rapeseed oils are also abundant in good fats such as mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids.

As I planned to eat this meal without any other added fats, I was quite happy to indulge in this vegetarian feast. 

Feeling adventurous, I then reached for the ‘spicy red pepper houmous’.  I was pleasantly surprised when it read 15.2g fat per 100g.  

Had I not bothered to read labels, I would have missed the opportunity to screen the fats myself. 
It was a bitter sweet moment when I realised that even I had almost fallen for deceptive food labels.  And yet, there was certainly nothing wrong with the labels for these varieties of houmous.  Just a tiny case of labeling deception.

Afterall, the reduced fat version of houmous prepared with extra virgin olive oil certainly had a lower fat content when compared to its original. But not, when compared with alternative flavours such as the 'spicy red pepper' version.

This is an excellent example to illustrate that it really is worth investing time to read labels.

If I eat a 100g portion or half the tub of the red pepper houmous, I will eat 15g of fat compared to 19g.  I save a total of 4g of fat in the day.  This equates to roughly 36 calories or a small clementine. 

It may not sound like much, but it all adds up.  It’s exactly the same scenario when you sneak in an extra eyeshadow at the MAC counter and then realise your £36 bill has suddenly climbed to £48.  How did that happen?  ‘All that glitters’ sure is a lovely eye shadow, but life is not always full of glitter and promise and do you really need all of the eye shadows?  Likewise, do you really need the extra 4g of fat?

Possibly not and sometimes, it’s not all about the total amount of fat either.  The proportion of fats are important too so know your sources of fat.  Read your labels.

For example, if you read the ingredients list for ‘spicy red houmous’, you will notice that the second ingredient is ‘pulped sesame seeds’.  These provide one of the sources of fat to the final dish.  Rapeseed oil is listed as the fourth ingredient, whilst extra virgin olive oil is listed towards the end of the list of ingredients.  All are sources of mono and poly unsaturated fats.   Tahini is also a useful source of calcium.

I believe houmous gets my tick for fat, but as it's moderately high in fat, consider the amount you plan to eat.  Just don’t eat the whole tub in one sitting!