Thursday, July 28, 2011

Frugality: To "Green" or Not to "Green" and Other Popular Phrases

I'm not very old, but I know that there is always some sort of catch phrase going around when it comes to food and other things you buy. Words like "light" and "low-fat" used to be big, then came "low-carb," now it's things like "all natural" and "green." Now not all the time do these words mean something bad. Something that is low carb can be good for you, as can something that is green. So how do you know what is good and what is just marketing?
  • Read the label. Sometimes in order to make something low-fat, light, or low-carb, they actually add things like tons of salt, artificial sweeteners, or the infamous "natural/artificial colors and flavors." Those things themselves can be kind of scary.
  • When it comes to the words all natural or green, those really don't have a lot of backing. You can say something is all natural, but think about what things are "natural." Sugar is natural as is salt, but thinking about cleaners a lot of things naturally found are not necessarily safe. My adage to remember is "even arsenic is natural." If you want natural food, stick to the outer aisles of the store, where you find produce, meat, and dairy. For cleaners, stick to vinegar, lemons, baking soda, etc.
  • For the term green, always weigh the price to what it is. I'm sorry, but a hybrid gigantic SUV just does not make any sense, you pay a ton more to get a few extra miles. A lot of things will claim to be green, which really aren't any different then they used to be, and somethings don't make the claim and are more green then the ones that do.
  • Organic. Organic is a good thing, but to truly be organic at the grocery store it needs a USDA label. When it comes to the farmer's market, ask how the farmer grows his food.  A lot of times local farmers do grow things organic, but cannot afford to be certified. Also, organic does not mean good for you. Organic sugar is just as unhealthy as regular sugar. An organic cookie is just as bad as a regular cookie.
  • Whole grain. Whole grains are good for you, but if it's whole grain Chef Boyardee, you'll probably still find trans fat in it. Also, corn is a whole grain, but really it's not the best kind of grain to have. Really you want wheat, rice, barley, etc. Don't buy something that says whole grain without reading the whole label.
  • 0g of Trans Fat per Serving. Here's the thing if there is less then 0.5g of trans fat in the food, the company doesn't have to list it on the nutrition label. However, if you read the ingredients you'll still find it. It will be listed as either fully or partially-hydrogenated oil. You'd be surprised what you'll find it in. Also, with the reality that most people don't eat just one serving of many foods, it can be concerning that the company can fool you into thinking you are not eating any trans fat.
Really what it comes down to is read the label and do research. Remember the company is trying to sell you something, they will not tell you the bad, only the good. It's up to you to be informed.
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