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With all of the clever marketing and mixed information in the media, it’s understandable that most people are confused as to which foods truly are healthy and which ones aren’t. Hey, I’ve been there! I’m unofficially a former addict for all snack foods labeled “Fat-free.” Yep, true story.

The frustrating truth is, just because a food claims to be healthy or uses healthy sounding words on the label, it doesn’t mean that food will actually help you live a longer, disease-free life—or help you conquer your weight loss goals.

One way I choose which foods we eat on a regular basis in our household is by weighing the good and the bad of each food. If I feel the good outweighs the bad (if there is any bad at all), we eat it. So how do I determine this? For the most part, nutrition labels.

Here is the single most important thing to look for on all nutrition labels:

Ingredients that are easily recognizable and do not sound like they were created in a science lab. Simple is best. 

Here is good example:

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If the food label shows a simple ingredients list, so far it’s good to go in the grocery cart. But let’s take it a step further…

There are some ingredients that don’t sound super science-y but still aren’t awesome for your health. Below are some of them…

Red Flag Ingredients to Watch Out For:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – A cheap and gnarly sweetener that may lead to increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.
  • Soy Protein – Most forms of soy used in protein bars, snack foods and cereals are highly processed and of poor quality. Usually genetically modified, too. Soy works as a phytoestrogen in the body, which means, it can really mess with your hormones if consumed on a regular basis.
  • Sugar Alcohols such as Maltitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Eryrthritol – proceed with caution, as these foods are known to cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are usually in foods labeled, “Sugar Free.”

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  • Partially Hydrogenated Oils – Aka: Trans fats. This type of fat raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. Just. Plain. Bad.
  • Artificial Colors – Many of the food dyes used in foods in the US are banned in other countries. I know, scary, right? This is due to the fact that they have been linked to health problems such as cancers, chromosomal damage and ADHD, just to name a few. They are usually named towards the end of the ingredients list and are numbered, such as Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. FYI – both Yellow 5 and 6 food dyes are believed to be the worst of them all.

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On a side note…

Be weary of anything labeled as “Fat-Free” that doesn’t naturally come that way. Fat-free dried fruit makes sense, but fat-free peanut butter does not. Check the ingredient list to see if extra sweeteners are added to help boost the flavors in these seemingly healthy foods.

I could go on and on here, but these are the biggest ingredient offenders, in my book. Foods that contain any of the above usually aren’t the best choices, no matter how healthy they may seem otherwise.

The produce section, however, is a whole different ball game. Fruits and vegetables are the rocks stars of the food world. They often have no nutrition labels to refer to, but it goes without saying that these foods are loaded with only the very best that nature has to offer. If the natural sugar content in fruit is a concern for you, then stick with high fiber types such as berries, apples and citrus.

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One last note on grocery store finds: when it comes to corn and corn products, soy products and canola oil, always look for the Non-GMO symbol, as these three food items fall victim to the genetically modified world more than most others.

I’ll touch on the subject of organic foods at another time.

Are there certain things that you look for on nutrition labels before that food is allowed in your cart? If so, please share in the comments below!

Read More! Part 2 – Weigh The Good and The Bad With All Things You Eat: Guidelines for Eating Away From Home

 

Filed under: Life & Sanity

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Comments

Darla Orme

I’m excited to learn more!!

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Andrea

If you are trying to lose weight are there any fruits or vegetables you recommend staying away from?

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Audrey Dunham

Hi Andrea, in my opinion, all fruit is ok in small amounts (about a 1/2 cup) and kept to about two servings a day. Fruit helps satisfy sweet cravings, which is a much better option than ice cream or candy. I prefer eating berries due to their high fiber, water and antioxidant content.

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Andrea

If you are trying to lose weight are there any fruits or vegetables you recommend to stay away from? I have heard some are too high in sugar. Thanks!

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Kim B.

I did not know what soy protein could do or yellow 5 and 6 dyes were the worst. Thank you for the information.

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Veronica

Hey there, audrey.

i tend to pay the most attention to sodium. if the product is high in sodium it doesn’t go in my cart. should i be paying more attention to sugars?

Thanks!
Veronica

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Audrey Dunham

HI Veronica, Absolutely! Especially since many added sugars come from low quality sources that have negative impacts on our health. Also, sugar is a source of empty calories, meaning, it has zero nutritional value. It’s best to strive to eat calories that provide the most bang for their buck, nutrition wise.

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kim brock

I did not know what soy protein could do or yellow 5 and 6 dyes were the worst. Thanks for the information.

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Susan Dandria

What are the best foods to eat (or not eat) to lower TRIGLYCERIDES?)

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Audrey Dunham

Hi Susan, Foods that naturally contain high fiber and sources for healthy fats such as spinach, fresh fruit, beans, salmon and olive oil .

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Michelle Hach

Just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your blog. Finished reading “weigh the good with the bad.” I learned tons.

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Audrey Dunham

Thanks for this, Michelle! So glad to hear it.

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cindy ultican

How do I sign up for the blog ? I didn’t see a link

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Audrey Dunham

HI Cindy, Please look at the upper right hand corner of the site. thanks!

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Tammy

Audrey, I love u and Jeff your food ideas are the best. Thank you for sharing your ideas. I took a nutrition class my self.

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Audrey Dunham

Thanks for kind words, Tammy!

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Mary Cook

A QUESTION ABOUT USING A PROTEIN SHAKE THAT HAS XYLITOL IN IT. SHOULD YOU USE THE SHAKE OR NOT?

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Audrey Dunham

Hi Mary – Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that can cause gas and bloating, just like all other sugar alcohols. Some people’s stomachs can tolerate it, but for me personally, I was only able to consume it for a short time before my body decided that it had had enough. Now I stick with stevia sweetened protein shakes.

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Jamie

My mom has preached so much of what you say for as long as I remember. Good job

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Audrey Dunham

Thank you!!

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JEN

Hi Audrey!
Thanks for taking the time to explain this. When someone Is looking into changing the way they and their families eat this is a great article and very informative. The other thing I pay close attention to is the amount of sodium in each product.

Reply

Audrey Dunham

Thank you for the kind words, Jen!

Reply

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