The overwhelming amount of products in stores today combined with confusing marketing makes it difficult to determine which items are the healthiest options. Luckily, there are some simple tools and tricks to decipher food labels that will help you become a more knowledgeable consumer.
First, let’s look at the ingredient list. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
1. The fewer the ingredients, the better
2. Limit added sugar (e.g. sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, rice syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses, honey, malted barley extract, barley malt, fruit juice concentrate)
3. Ingredients are listed in order by their amount (weight) in the products
4. Limit items with the following words: artificial, hydrogenated, benzoate, sorbate
5. Limit items with colors or numbers: Red 40, Yellow 5, etc. 6. If a second-grader cannot pronounce an ingredient, do not buy the product
Next, let’s look at the actual nutrition facts panel. Be mindful of what a serving is since all of the amounts are based on their determined serving rather than how much you may actually eat in one sitting. Saturated and trans fats should be limited along with sodium. With dietary fiber, higher is better as this shows a less processed product and will keep you more full and help balance blood sugars.
Looking at these items will help you look past common marketing strategies to find the best options for you and your family. And remember to try to purchase more whole foods, which don’t typically come in packages like vegetables and fruit. Happy shopping!