December 5, 2017
By: Karen Silver

I was eating a Caesar salad recently when someone mocked me for being on a health kick. First of all, this threw me off because what is wrong with eating healthy? Second, a Caesar salad is probably the unhealthiest salad out there. It contains all of one vegetable- which is lettuce. The other four ingredients are bacon bits, croutons, parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing, which is essentially mayo with anchovies and peppercorns.

People hear the word salad and assume it is healthy automatically. Words like gluten-free, vegan, all-natural, and no sugar added all sound good from a marketing perspective, but do those labels mean that food is healthy? I’m going to break down what some of those common labels on our food really mean.

All-natural is a very common label to see on prepackaged foods. However, it says very little about whether or not the product is healthy. Smarties® are now made with natural flavors but what it comes down to it are they are still chocolate coated in a candy shell.

Products that are marketed as vegan are not necessarily good for you either. It is important to know if food is vegan if you are on a vegan diet, but a food that is vegan does not say anything about how healthy that food is. Vegan foods do not contain meat, dairy, and eggs, and eating vegan is considered by some to have long-term health benefits. However, prepackaged vegan foods can still contain high amounts of sugars, starches, and sodium.

Gluten-free is another label that often convinces people that they are choosing a healthier option. There is some debate as to whether or not people who do not have Celiac disease benefit at all from a gluten-free diet. Either way, products marketed as gluten-free simply do not contain gluten and are not necessarily any healthier than their gluten alternatives.

Especially when Canada’s food guide has changed so much since the food pyramid days and has recently gone through another overhaul, it can be confusing to know what it means to eat healthy. Keep track of your sugar intake, including both naturally occurring and added sugars. Pay attention to your fiber and protein intake, and make sure your daily diet includes a lot of fruit and veggies. If you are unsure of how to create a healthy balanced diet, you may benefit from seeing a dietitian or nutritionist to help create a diet or meal plan that is specific to your own lifestyle and personal goals.