You Are What You Eat - Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada

I am sure you have heard the proverb, "You are what you eat" - the kind of food you consume determines your health, looks and well-being. "Do I really want to be a cup of hot partially hydrogenated oil?" "Or I could be a lean legume?" That's taking the proverb a little too literally. Though, asking yourself questions like these might make you stop and think about the contents of what you are eating.

Nutrition facts labels on products have helped me a lot in my food choices. You can find me in a grocery store aisle reading them like a newspaper. I weigh the pros and cons of a product, especially when it comes to processed food items. Reading labels have prompted me put that salty or sweet item with absolutely no nutritional value and whose list of ingredients include a 10-letter compound only a chemist can pronounce, back on the shelf to hopefully collect dust.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, a nutrition facts label is broken down into six categories reading from the top down:

1. Serving Size

2. Calories (and calories from fat)

3. and 4. The Nutrients: How Much?

5. Understanding the Footnote on the Bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label

6. Percent of Daily Value for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Below the chart, you'll find a list of ingredients.

I can understand why serving size information is first. How much you consume influences the remaining categories. Before I made a conscious effort to read labels, I'd drink a 16 oz sports drink on a hot day, for example. I didn't pay attention to the fact I consumed two servings at 200 calories per serving. I used up 400 calories of the recommended 2,000 calories a day. If I drank more than one a day, I consumed most of my calories in beverages. Not good.

Also, as you have probably noticed a lot of fast food chains are now supplying nutritional information. Seeing some of those numbers should make anyone run screaming. Though, it depends on whether or not you choose to think about it.

Speaking figuratively, "You are what you eat," can also make you think about our oneness with the environment, all that is natural. Recently Whole Foods Market announced the launch of a new sustainability ratings program for wild-caught seafood. The company, in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute is now using color-coded ratings, which tells you information about your seafood purchases. For example, green, the highest rating, notes a species is caught in environment-friendly ways and is abundant. While, a red label indicates the species is suffering from overfishing and current fishing methods are harmful.

It would be ideal to not have to contemplate upon the contents of what we consume --- whether or not they are healthy or harmful. But, as we live in a highly technological and some times earth-unfriendly environment, when you navigate the food product terrain it's a good idea to know what you're working with.

For more information on nutrition fact labels, visit For more information on Whole Foods Market's sustainability ratings program, visit