One of the first changes I made when transitioning to a healthier diet was reading labels. Honestly, it was pretty overwhelming at first. There were so many different products to watch out for and it was hard to decide which factors were more important than the others.
I began by looking for just one ingredient on labels. If the product had that ingredient, I didn’t buy it. As I got accustomed to reading labels, I slowly started to add ingredients to my “Watch List.”
Today I’m going to share the top things I watch out for on food labels:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – Just don’t do it! High Fructose Corn Syrup contains chemical toxins including mercury. It adds excessive amounts of sugar to your diet and is a red flag that the product is very highly processed and lacking in nutrients. If you find this in the ingredient list, trust me, put the product back on the shelf.
- Red 40 (along with all other food dyes) – Dyes are normally near the end of the Ingredient List in labels and generally looks like a color followed by a number (Yellow 5, Green 3, Blue 2). You may also see Caramel Color, etc. Whenever I see dye in a product, I always wonder why its necessary. Think about it…..changing the color of a food product is purely a marketing scheme to make the food look more appealing. Dyes are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing) and linked to hyperactivity (ADD, ADHD). The European Union has placed regulations on food dyes, but the FDA lacks action in this area.
- Sugar – Check the grams of sugar in the Nutrition Facts. Have you ever wondered why you can find a Daily Value % for almost every other item on the Nutrition Facts except sugar?! Well, the FDA recommends 24-36 grams per day (6-9 teaspoons). Just take that into account when checking those labels.
- Enriched Bleached White Flour – Enriching the flour removes most of the vitamins and nutrients to create finer texture. Bleaching uses more chemicals to create a more appealing color. Additionally, your body digests it exactly like it digests sugar. Yikes! I know food with wheat flour tastes different and holds a different texture, but you can adjust to it. I did! When baking, I would look at a recipe with 1 C white flour and adjust it to 3/4 C white and 1/4 C wheat. Gradually increase the amount of wheat flour and decrease the amount of white until you don’t use white flour at all.
- Sodium Nitrate – Found most commonly in lunch meats, this preservative can damage the cells in your body, is carcinogenic, and increases risk of heart disease and diabetes. Its just not worth it! Fortunately, this has become a common enough issue that you can find sodium nitrate free options at local grocers and super centers alike.