Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reading ingredient lists!

So I've been seeing around in the world (health news, podcasts, etc) the new push for people to read ingredient lists rather than just the nutrition label on food. I realized I had slowly morphed into doing this for myself over the past few years!

Now, obviously, one of the golden rules is: don't buy foods with labels on them! (goes right along with shopping along the perimeter of the store).

And if I was perfect, I wouldn't buy food with labels... it would be all fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and nuts!

But I am far from perfect :)

And some things I consider GOOD still have labels on them (which are important to read!), like coconut milk, frozen berries, and ketchup!!

First off, those nutritional labels can be downright misleading. For example, there is a law that says if there is a certain amount of trans fat in a product  (if less than 1 gram of trans fat per serving), the producers can "round down" to 0.... so producers will make whatever gross transfatty product they are selling a small enough portion size so that they can claim there is "0" trans fat in the serving size. All the while, people are eating 3, 4, 5 servings and getting a ton of trans fat in their diets.

Best way to combat that situation: don't just look at the labels and scan down to the trans fat line.... READ THE INGREDIENTS. If there are any hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, you are consuming trans fats.

Second, I always look in the ingredient list for high fructose corn syrup. If I see that crap in the ingredients for my ketchup, I don't buy it. And almost ALL ketchup has HFCS, I often have to do some serious reading in the condiment aisle to find something made with just tomato and vinegar and sugar. (yes, I totally eat sugar)

And just a general rule I follow: if something HAS a label (eg. is not a whole food), I make sure all the ingredients IN that product are whole foods. No chemicals allowed. For example, when I buy mixed frozen berries, I make sure the ingredients are: raspberries, blueberries, etc. NOT sugar. Fruit has sugar already, I don't need extra :D

It's just that the food manufacturers are so damned sneaky, trying to make you feel like you are doing a good thing by buying their products, when in reality, you're just filling your body with junk.

So, my rules I live by:

- TRY not to buy items that have labels (buy whole foods)
- If an item has a label, read the ingredient list
- If there are chemicals, trans fats, etc in the ingredient list, put it back

One quick note before I get off my soapbox: I don't eat wheat products any more, but for those of you who do, make sure to read the ingredients on your bread! If it says, enriched bleached whole wheat (or some combination), PUT IT BACK. What that basically means is that they have so over-processed the wheat, that they had to put a few vitamins in it to make sure their bread wasn't totally nutritionally devoid. No where near the actual real nutrients you would have gotten from real, unprocessed whole grains. So be savvy!

Keep an eye out for yourselves and your health, it's a dangerous world out there :)



  1. Most bread in the "regular" bread aisle have several forms of sugar high on their ingredient lists, and most of the "whole wheat" bread you see from Pepperidge Farm, Nissen, etc. is colored with molasses. There's not much I buy with a label or an ingredient list anymore: Teddie peanut butter (peanuts, salt), Matthew's Whole Wheat bread for the Spawn (it has 7 ingredients, no sweeteners), Ezekiel bread, brown rice (brown rice), canned tuna and sardines, coffee, tea, oats, honey...all pretty much single ingredient products. I looked at the ingredient list on Special K 100 Calorie bars a while ago and they have about 56 ingredients including 11 forms of sugar, but, you know, they're low calorie and named after fruits, so they must be good. ;)

  2. I do the same thing when buying BBQ sauce too -- it's tough to find ones that don't have HFCS, and many also have some form of wheat/gluten too!

  3. Amen to this very good advice!

    Sometimes, perusing the labels is a real eye-opener. If you do buy foods with labels (I try not to, as much as practical, as well) I often can't believe how much superfluous crap manufacturers put into what, at first glance, appear to be 'healthy' foods.

    Another tip is to look at the sell-by and use-by dates. If an item has a loooong date, there's usually a reason for that. Often, that reason is that the food has been, in the politest way I can put this, buggered about with! Real food goes off. That's nature's way of telling you fresh is important.

  4. Believe it or not, even things like salsa and "whole grain/whole wheat" bread have HFCS - it's ridiculous! I too spend a whole lot of time reading labels.