Have your kids ever been hypnotized by a packaged food they see in the snack isle? The bright colors and friendly characters jump out at them. A lot of the products sit right at eye level with their wandering eyes. With marketing tactics becoming trickier by the day, it’s more important than ever to learn how to read food labels! In conventional nutrition, we’re taught to read nutrition labels. This relates to the calories, fat, sodium and sugar content. There’s definitely a time and a place to pay attention to these numbers. But those numbers can all fall under the right guidelines and still wreak havoc on your health. As people become more educated on ingredients these companies are forced to find new loopholes in labeling. That’s why it’s so vital to stay informed and know how to read food labels!
The best type of diet is that which is rich in whole foods. Ideally as that is, life is busy. It’s easy to choose the convenience that packaged foods provides. So choosing the right packaged foods is of upmost importance.
Below are my guidelines of how to read food labels:
- Stay away from foods labeled “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, “low-calorie”. The way foods compensate for these headlines is by adding other harmful chemicals and additives to make up for what was taken out. Even then, companies are still allowed to have a small amount of what they claim is not in it. For instance, you may see “0 trans fat” yet the product can STILL have .5 grams of trans fat per serving. This is one reason why learning how to read food labels is KEY!
- Choose foods that are certified non-GMO and/or organic. Unfortunately, large food corporations skip out on food quality in order to maximize profits. The long-term studies of the effects of GMO’s are still being researched, as GMO’s were only commercially introduced in 1996. Here’s a study on the toxicity of Roundup tolerated seeds. Food crops that use genetically modified seeds are heavily sprayed with harmful pesticides that are known carcinogens. You can read about the carcinogenic effects of pesticides here.
- Rule of thumb: if there’s more than a handful of ingredients, especially ones you cannot pronounce… then the product is probably not good for you. There are literally thousands of toxic chemicals that are FDA-approved for use in our foods. Many of these chemicals are banned in other countries. One example of a potentially cancer-causing chemical approved by the FDA is BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole). BHA is classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services. Read about BHA here. BHA can be found in foods such as dehydrated potatoes, snack foods and gum.
- Get familiar with ingredients and their counter-parts. Now that more people are paying attention to what’s really in our food, food companies are hiding harmful ingredients behind names you probably haven’t heard of. For instance, did you know there are 60+ names for sugar allowed on food labels?
- Take your time reading labels. I’ve been reading labels for 10 years and occasionally find myself still being fooled. I really have to look and whip out my inner detective. I tend to buy the same core foods each week. However, I do like exploring and finding new items and I do tend to gravitate towards packaged foods that look natural/healthy. I am the crazy lady in the grocery store yelling at the food box because it LOOKS healthy (deceptive marketing) but it’s not even close.
Below, you’ll find a quick little infograph with the top 10 worst ingredients you can have in your food. Download it. Save it to your phone. Take it out at the grocery story. Get familiar with labels. It’s very empowering when you consciously choose your food products instead of doing so with a blind-fold on. In this case, knowledge is definitely power.