What You May Not Know About Food Labels
The best way to determine if a packaged food is healthy for your family is by taking time to read the food label. Here are some things to look for:
- First, see how many servings are listed in the product. I once ate an individual pot pie that was listed as two servings. Food companies try to get their sugar, fat, calories, etc. lower so we’ll buy. But now you know. Check the number of servings listed. An individual pot pie should have been one serving.
- Can you pronounce all the ingredients? If not, the unpronounceables are probably chemicals or fillers.
- Is sugar listed under a different name several times? Food companies try to hide how much sugar is in their product by using various sugary ingredients. Here are some of the names of “sugar”: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sugar alcohols, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, galactose, lactose, maltose, brown sugar, dextrin, maltodextrin, turbinado sugar, agave nectar/syrup, barley malt, caramel, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup.
- Ingredients are listed in descending order according to their content by weight. If sugar is listed first there is more sugar by weight than any other ingredient.
- Is 100% of the grain used in the product whole, or are the whole grains mixed with enriched flour? The key is to look for the number 100. If it doesn’t say “100% whole grain,” it isn’t. Maybe only 20% of the product contains whole grains. See how tricky this is?
- Do you see the names of artificial sweeteners? Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar. You aren’t doing yourself a favor by consuming them. Consuming them increases your desire for more sugar. Stay away from them, seriously. Here are some of their names: sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin), Neotame (Newtame), Acesulfame potassium or ace-K (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, Sunett).
- Do you see numbers? Like Red #40, Red #3, Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #6, Green #3, Carmel coloring. These are the top seven most dangerous food dyes to avoid. Cleveland Clinic has linked hyperactivity, including ADHD to the consumption of food dyes. Other deleterious effects include behavioral changes (including irritability and depression), hives, asthma, tumor growth (three of the primary food dyes contain benzene, a known carcinogenic).
- Is the ingredient list long or short? In most cases, the shorter the better.
- Try to eat a serving size with less than 5% fat.
- There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. One can of coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar!
- Every label is listed for a 2,000 calorie diet. Some of us don’t need that many calories and some need more (athletes). Keep that in mind when you are reading the food label.
- The best option is to eat more foods that don’t have a label like fruits and vegetables!