How To Be A Food Detective
There has been a lot of talk about the dangers of sugar and a long list of medical problems associated with excess sugar consumption; but how do we know how to decipher the code on our favorite foods when large food manufacturers use slick marketing which is designed to hide the sugar content with ambiguous description and words. I’ve got three simple steps you can follow when it comes to determining whether there’s added sugar in your food:
1. Ignore all front-label marketing claims, like “natural,” “part of a balanced diet,” and even “no added sugar.” These claims are almost always misleading. Neither can you depend on the red, green, and yellow labeling on some packaged foods. I’m afraid the “organic” label has very little to do with whether or not a product has too much sugar, natural or added.
2. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts label, specifically the categories “Total Carbohydrates” and “Sugars.” If the total sugar content is over 22.5 grams per 100 grams, the food is high in sugar; if it’s below 5 grams per 100 grams, then the food is low in sugar. Another good rule of thumb is that if a food has no added sugar, no saturated fat, and offers protein, then the food is acceptable. But if a food has more added sugar and/or saturated fat than protein, then the food has too much sugar. It also follows that if a food has more sugar than protein, the food still has more negative than positive benefits. And, if a food has more than five grams of added sugar, it’s not worth the calories. Also, if a food has more than five grams of saturated fat it’s also not worth the calories either.
3. Check out the ingredients list. Look for the obvious words like “sugar,” “cane,” “sweetener,” and “syrup,” as well as anything ending in “–ose.” These are obvious signs of added sugars, with the exception of “lactose,” which is a naturally occurring sugar in dairy products. If you find one of these hot words, the product goes back on the shelf.
Following these steps for reading labels will give you a pretty good idea when a product has added sugar and should be avoided. But sometimes even naturally occurring sugar gets out of hand, so before we move on entirely from labeling, I want to address one of the biggest mistakes people make when reading labels and trying to avoid sugar: assuming that organic food is automatically healthy. The sad part is that if you’re buying something organic, you’re really trying to do what’s best for your family! You deserve results for your effort, so I’m going to remind you to watch out for sugar, even when it’s organic and naturally occurring. Think about the last time you actually read a nutritional label on foods you buy on a consistent basis either for you or your family. Do you think you would be shocked by how much sugar is in those foods? If they contained excess sugar you were not aware of, would it motivate you to give up these foods?
I challenge you to try this exercise: Write down five to seven packaged food items you buy on a regular basis and the sugar content of those items per serving. Based on those answers and the rule of thumb outlined above concerning food being acceptable or unacceptable in relation to its sugar content, check to see whether these items fit into the acceptable or unacceptable category, and then decide whether you will continue to buy them.
Interview with Sanjay Raja
How did you begin your speaking career?
I actually began my speaking career in the medical world as I was a medical consultant hired by different medical device companies to educate surgeons on new medical devices and the new surgical techniques associated with these devices. A large portion of my job was to give presentations to surgeons, medical staff, and hospital officials regarding how to use these devices to help increase positive patient outcomes.
Once I left that industry and went in to the nutrition and fitness space as a health coach working one on one with clients I also would host healthy cooking demonstrations in my home to show parents, and adults of ages various recipes that were healthy, and kid friendly that anyone could make at home. As I would do more of these healthy cooking demonstrations more and more people would show up and and soon I had small crowds that I would be speaking to.
Then I realized I could take my speaking career to a whole new level and wanted to get the message across to a wider audience on a variety of topics related to fitness&nutrition based on experience in the medical field and my work with individual clients.
Who or what inspires you most?
Helping people achieve their goals and my kids are the two things that inspire me the most. When I started my first company Team No Excuses Fitness in 2012 I wanted it to be a legacy I could leave behind for them and because I wanted to start a company dedicated to helping people achieve their fitness&nutrition goals and I never thought it could grow to this level as my company now helps numerous individuals, athletes, parents and children achieve their nutrition and fitness goals.
In addition I have worked with numerous companies large and small across the country in assessing/augmenting/building a health and wellness plan for their employees.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people make when it comes to nutrition and fitness?
This is such a tough question to answer but I would have to say the biggest mistake people make is thinking that they need to only think about their health when something goes wrong meaning they have an ailment or injury. That being said I educate clients and companies that maintaining your health is done through choices we make daily and in doing so you can lessen the chance for injury and ailments before they occur.
The second biggest mistake that is equally as important for me to address is falling into the trap of short term weight loss through fad dieting and expecting to keep the weight off. I constantly have to dispel this notion and reiterate that by being proactive about your health they will keep the weight off for the long term without the need for yo-yo dieting.
What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?
I enjoy public speaking because it allows me to connect with people on a very personal level and if I can illicit positive change in just one person in the audience to take action to improve their life then I have accomplished my goal to change people’s lives for the better.
What are your biggest goals in your life/career currently?
The biggest goal of my life is to provide the best possible childhood for my children by having them experience the world as I did. I grew up in India as a child and have circled the globe many times over. I consider myself a citizen of the world as I feel like I can relate to and fit in with any culture in the world. This is what I want for my children to be citizens of the world so they can have a global perspective vs a local perspective so they will never be afraid to try anything new.
Regarding my career goals my I have three major goals I would like to accomplish. The first goal is almost accomplished as my book will release next month but my goal is to tour the country and the world and speak to as many people as possible to make a positive impact in their lives through my book as I started writing this about 3 years ago. My second goal is to build up both my both my nutrition and fitness education company in Team No Excuses Fitness and my consulting company in RajaVentures to such a level I can leave them for my kids to take over and build their own lives with.
Lastly I am a working actor in film/tv/commercials and I am working towards being a series regular on a major tv shows and also being a lead on a major film.
What kinds of clients have you worked with in the past?
They type of clients I have worked with in the past include adults/athletes looking to take their training/diet to the next level as I was a former athlete. I have worked with children of different age groups and their families in overcoming sugar addiction and showing the parents how to educate their children in making healthy food choices through cooking together in the kitchen and preparing meals together as a family. I also have worked with companies big and small around the country in developing their health&wellness programs for their employees.