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:
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.”
- 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.
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.
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!