By Stevie Buckley
Firstly, I want to apologise off the bat if I seem blunt, I just have strong opinions on this topic.
As someone who has coeliac disease and is lactose intolerant, I know how important it can be to check every food label. After all, checking the label of that salad could be the difference between me being a functioning member of society and me being stuck at home in unbearable pain for at least a day (possibly longer, depending on what was in the aforementioned salad). However, even though most people don’t have something as severe as coeliac disease or a life-threatening allergy, I think everyone should check their food labels, and here’s why.
Even if you don’t have allergies, your health is of the utmost importance. You might think that your daily pizza or burger and chips from the Bialann (or whichever outlet you frequent for your lunch on campus) isn’t bad for you. It probably tastes nice and that’s why you get it (can the “probably” make you tell that it’s been a long time since I have eaten anything with gluten in it?), but do you know what’s in it? Little decisions can make the world of difference, like checking out the pre-prepared salads or sandwiches in Smokey’s – they have ingredients on the packet so at least you know what’s going into your body!
Many foods are laden with sugar and/or saturated fats, which many of us rarely check the label for, but the facts are that a high level of sugar consumption can cause type 2 diabetes later in life and saturated fats can cause heart disease. Both of these food groups can contribute to obesity in the shorter term. Still, many of us don’t care about how much of these we’re putting in our bodies – we eat that pizza and drink that can of Monster anyway. It’s a wake-up call to see the possible effects of what could happen if we live this lifestyle for a long time, because newsflash: the outlook isn’t good.
Bringing back in the topic of food allergies and intolerances, anyone who has these knows the serious consequences of eating something your body cannot handle. For those who don’t know, these effects vary from temporary abdominal pain and discomfort to death in the case of severe allergies. However, many of my friends with intolerances and allergies just look to see if the food is safe and then eat it if it is, totally disregarding the health effects beyond the immediate allergy symptoms. I try my best to eat healthily, also checking the ingredients and nutritional information for high levels of saturated fats, sugars in the case of non-plant-based foods and simple carbohydrates in general. I try not to put anything too bad in my body, even if I do fail sometimes.
So, why don’t people check labels? There are nearly as many reasons as there are people who don’t check labels. I’m going to give short responses to some of the ones that come to mind:
- “But I’m not allergic to anything!” – you’re not invincible, allergens aren’t the only possible bad things in foods.
- “I don’t care what I eat!” – the occasional treat is okay, but this just sounds like you have a death wish.
- “But they’re just numbers!” – yeah, and 999 is just a number until you get seriously ill or injured
The list goes on…
So, before you buy that large Chicago Town pizza and a two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola to consume on your own some evening, think “will my body thank me for this?”