101 on Reading Food labels

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Going Clean with food and having anxiety in the grocery store aisle? Don’t stress! I promise you, this transition is easier than you might think.

At first, there’s so much to learn and it can feel overwhelming – that’s where I got your back.

Now first, always choose Whole Foods Whenever Possible! Obviously, the best way to avoid being misled by these labels is to avoid processed foods altogether. However, if you decide to buy packaged foods, it is necessary to sort out the junk from the higher quality products. Keep in mind that whole food doesn't need an ingredients list, because the whole food IS the ingredient. While the basics of Clean Eating are to eat real, whole and unprocessed foods, there will still come a time when you find yourself in the land of packaged foods and aren’t sure what’s healthy and what’s not.


The first 3 ingredients are the MOST important and will tell you a lot about what is it by just the first 3. They also do ingredients from greatest to the least which helps you determine what is the mostly made of.

If you can not pronounce half of the ingredients and it seems you are taking a chemistry test while reading them do not buy it!

The farther you are away from the natural state of food the more harmful it is to your body. These foods are highly processed and very hard on your body.

If you are unsure how to read a food label for the content of calories, fat, carbs, protein, sugars, ect click here to give you a better understanding. ALWAYS look at the calories to serving size. It may say its only 60 calories per serving but it 4-5 servings in box, package, can, ect. This helps you when you go to eat it to help you portions things right.

Seriously the food companies are very sneaking in making you think that the foods you are buying is good for you. For instance they have this new label called “smart choice” and they have this on so many foods that I would not even think to purchase. Look At The Ingredients List Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount. That means that the first listed ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most of. A good rule of thumb is to scan the first three ingredients, because they are the largest part of what you're eating. If the first ingredients include refined grains, some sort of sugar or hydrogenated oils, you can be pretty sure that the product is unhealthy. Instead, try to choose items that have whole foods listed as the first three ingredients. Another good rule of thumb is if the ingredients list is longer than 2–3 lines, you can assume that the product is highly processed. In a nutshell: Ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest. Try looking for products that list whole foods as the first three ingredients, and be skeptical of foods with long lists of ingredients.


  • Organic: This label says very little about whether the product is healthy or not. For example, organic sugar is still sugar. Only certified organically grown products can be guaranteed to be organic.

  • added sugar: Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don't have added sugar doesn't mean they're healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.

  • Low-calorie: Low-calorie products have to contain 1/3 fewer calories than the samebrand's original product. However, one brand's low-calorie version may contain similar calories as the original of another product.

  • Low-fat: This label almost always means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be very careful and read the ingredients listed on the back.

  • Low-carb: Recently, low-carb diets have been linked with improved health. However, processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually just processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat junk foods.

  • Fortified or enriched: This basically means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk.

  • Fat Free— OK we all know that the “fat free” diet made us all obese and fat so fat free does not mean anything. On a box of candy it reads “a fat free food” LOL. The food label should really read “Fat Free but full of harmful chemicals and sugar.” This what they have to do when they make it “fat free” fat free business is really not good for you. If it says reduced fat then its full of tons of carbs, and if it says low fat then it is high in glycemic index.

  • Whole Grain— If the first ingredients are enriched, bleached, or refined, the it is not whole grain. Whole wheat should be the first or at least in the top three ingredients. Look for 3 or more grams of fiber slice or serving. If it is not then do not buy it.

  • Modified— If it says modified anything I try and avoid it because it means it usually contains GMO’s and that it has been changed form its natural state. Studies have shown that modified corn starch is not basically that bad for you but I still try and avoid it when I can.

  • Light: Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat, and some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead, like sugar.

  • Multigrain: This sounds very healthy, but basically just means that there is more than one type of grain in the product. These are most likely refined grains, unless the product is marked as whole grain.

  • Natural: This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything natural. It simply means that at some point the manufacturer had a natural source (for example, apples or rice) to work with.

  • Gluten-free: Gluten-free does not equal healthy. It simply means that the product doesn't contain wheat, spelt, rye or barley. Many foods are gluten-free, but can be highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.

  • Fruit-flavored: Many processed foods have a name that refers to a natural flavor, such as strawberry yogurt. However, there may not be any fruit in the product, only chemicals designed to taste like fruit.


High Fructose Corn Syrup— This is a man made sugar and is cheaper and sweeter then regular cane sugar. The government subsidises it so therefore it is everything! They try to make it out that its not that bad but it is. It does have a smaller fructose index then regular sugar but that does not mean that it is better for you. It is highly processed and has even shown to contain traces of mercury!

Trans Fats— Avoid like the plague!!! These are fats that contain trans fatty acids that are formed when certain types of oils are heated at high temperatures. They are cheaper, make food last longer, and are very hard on the digestive system. If it says partially and fully hydrogenated oils then do not buy it.

Additives, coloring, flavorings, and preservatives— Sulfates, nitrites, salicylates, propylene, and glycol are some of the main culprits. These are pure chemical compounds, whose effects over time cause serious damage to body’s systems. Since they are synthetic, your body has a horrible time trying to break them down 3⁄4 when they linger in your system, they can poison your body and cause damage to organs, blocking the absorption of nutrients, and cause weight gain. Say no to these things!

MSG— We have all heard the hype about this so just watch for it when looking at your ingredients. It is also know as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed plant extract, plant protein extract,sodium caseinate, yeast extract, texturized protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed oat flour, and calcium caseinate.


Sugar Substitutes – Manufactures love putting sugar in to product and they disguise it well. Sugar goes by countless names, many of which you may not recognize. Its important to understand that artificial sweeteners are so dangerous that, if they are added to a product, manufacturers must place a warning label on the package to alert consumers, but they don’t always do this. If you see any of these listed below in the top spots on the ingredients lists, or several kinds throughout the list, then you can be sure that the product is high in added sugar.

  • Types of sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, golden sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, raspadura sugar, evaporated cane juice and confectioner's sugar.

  • Types of syrup: carob syrup, golden syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, maple syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup and rice syrup.

  • Other added sugars: barley malt, molasses, cane juice crystals, lactose, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, disaccharides, maltodextrin and maltose.

Remember, Less ingredients is is better. For instance real butter has 2 ingredients but margarine aka plastic has about 20 some ingredients but it has lesser calories, fat, ect. This does not mean it is better for you. Your body will process regular butter much better then margarine. Same with man avocado…it is very high in fat but it is the good essential fatty acids you need, so do not be fooled!

This is something that takes practice, so enjoy the journey. It becomes fun at the grocery store and then second nature. I have even taught my kids how to read food labels. You will get to know the products that are good quality. We vote with our dollars, so every time we purchase a products that has good quality ingredients, you are opening the door for companies to make better quality products.