There is SO much that could be discussed when it comes to the topic of reading labels, food labeling and knowing WHAT it is you are actually eating. I hate to admit that up until a few years ago I rarely glanced at labels when buying food. I knew what I wanted to buy and eat and had been doing the same thing for years, so what was the big deal? Thankfully my son’s severe food allergies rocked our world in a GOOD way when it came to being aware of exactly what we were putting into our bodies…..down the the smallest ingredient.
I was in shock. I had no idea how much ‘stuff’ was in simple things I was buying. It was crap I could not pronounce, had no idea what it was and even worse, didn’t know what damage it was causing our bodies by eating it!
The goal in moving toward real food is cutting out the processed stuff.
Here are just a few tips when it comes to reading labels that you can try and implement to help you become more aware of what you’re buying!
Buy food that doesn’t need labeling! Fresh produce and pastured farm meats are obviously the best choice for your meals. There’s nothing to worry about when nothing has been done to the basic product! I’m not going to pretend like I’m an expert at this. We are often still looking for quick go-to stuff on days I have failed to plan, but even the ‘shelf stuff’ can be purchased wisely and changed to promote healthier eating. Buy local and organic as much as possible. This is by far the #1 change to make in eating clean, real food!
Buy identifiable ingredients! Take a little more time next time you shop and compare products. The first time I went to buy chips after starting to read labels, I realized that the brand I usually reached for had about 25 ingredients. what?!?! What was all that junk?? Picking up an organic option next to it I found 3 ingredients. 3 ingredients that I knew what they were. I felt more confident knowing what I was getting and consuming with the 2nd option and actually tasted better too. Buy items that have only whole, real, identifiable ingredients….things that you know are real. If you can’t pronounce it, best to avoid it!
Know what you want to avoid. Do your research when it comes to which ingredients are harmful to your family’s health and diet. People trying to eat real food are going to want to cut out things such as….
- high fructose corn syrup
- artificial sweeteners
- flavor enhancers (like nitrates)
- preservatives (like MSG)
- hydrogenated oils
- artificial colors and dyes
Learn common ‘hidden ingredients’ especially when health or allergies are involved. Many ingredients are disguised under different terms and may not always jump out as obvious. There is often milk or wheat in items that you would never think would have or need them included!! For example, if you’re avoiding dairy, learn which ingredients are actually dairy beyond the label saying ‘milk’ or ‘cheese.’ For a dairy allergy, you also have to learn that ingredients such as whey, casein, buttermilk, cream, hydrolyzed milk protein, lactose, milk solids, natural butter flavor, etc. are also dairy!
View a complete list of common dairy and dairy ‘hidden ingredients’ here.
Ignore and avoid the “marketing labels” used on packaging. Ignore the verbage such as ‘low fat’, ‘made with real fruit’, ‘100% natural’, ‘multigrain’, ‘no sugar added’, etc. There is very little regulation and most of these mean nothing and a few are clues that there are probably extra chemicals and additives that you really don’t want! Again, make sure you look at the actual ingredients list to know what you are buying!
The best method is not to rush through and throw away everything you have, but to make slow, determined changes every time you go to buy food. Read the label and know that big changes start with the little choices, so start making better choices now!