READ THE LABEL
Do you find yourself staring at the shelves of cereals that seem to go on forever at the grocery store, skimming every box looking for the best option? You are trying to make a healthy food choice for your family. You disregard the sugar packed boxes and reach for the 100% natural, and 100% granola. This must be healthy, right?
Product packaging and food label’s main purpose is to sell the product. The ingredient list is the most important information on the package. Words like “all natural, low fat and sugar free” are used to entice customers to purchase their product. You will need to read and understand the ingredients to decide if these claims are in fact true. There are more than 3000 different chemicals that are purposefully added to our food every day. I couldn’t possibly list every one of them but having a general sense of knowing what goes in your food before it goes in your mouth is a good start.
A lot of additives are used to help or improve the nutritional value, such as calcium and folic acid. Chemical preservatives help or maintain the safety and freshness, such as BHA, sodium benzoate, and ascorbic acid. Most chemical preservatives need to include a function, which you will find in parentheses. An example would be sodium benzoate (preservative to inhibit mold). Most additives are to improve or maintain taste, texture, or appearance, such as sweeteners, fat replacers, thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers.
Here is a list of a few of the worst food additives. The additives have all been shown to affect the body in a negative way, whether it may be headaches, nausea, hyperactivity in children, depression, heart disease, birth defects, and liver and kidney damage. Check food labels to make sure that what you buy does not contain these ingredients: MSG, Aspartame, Benzoate preservatives – BHA & BHT, Hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, Free glutamates, Artificial sweeteners-colors-flavorings, Sodium nitrates & nitrites, Sulfites, High fructose corn syrup, Refined sugars, Saccharin, and BVO.
Don’t be misled by labeling tricks and gimmicks. Watch out for statements like these on packages: NATURAL FRUIT FLAVORS, ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS, NO ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES, 100% NATURAL, REAL FRUIT, NO PRESERVATIVES, NO ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS. No artificial preservatives does not mean there are no harmful additives in the product. The term “light” or “lite” on a package doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is low fat. It may refer to the texture or taste of the product. “Baked not fried” sounds healthier, but it may still have just as much fat. 85% percent fat free is the same as 15% fat, which is a lot. “No sugar added” still contains natural sugars. Some products have registered trademarks on their labels. A trademark is not a nutritional claim, even though that’s exactly what they want the consumer to believe. If a label says something like “All Natural” but has a registered trademark symbol, remember that it is for the brand not the nutrition of the product.
So the next time you are at the grocery store looking for that box of cereal that gives you the healthiest boost, take time to read the list of ingredients!