Tips for Reading Food Labels

Most of us look at the front of a package and expect that the information that is important is there. In most cases this is not true. You really need to read all your ingredients to know whether or not a food should be purchased or put right back on the shelf! I get a lot of people ask me how do I food shop with so many criteria to go by. Once you know the key items to avoid it is a lot easier to quickly glance at a label and know if it is something you should be eating or not. This goes for everyone whether you have food sensitivities or not. Obviously if you are allergic to something or have a sensitivity to something, you need to add that to your individual lists.

Here are some tips to help you navigate through the grocery store and feel a little less overwhelmed!

1. You should know what everything means, If any ingredient has a chemical-sounding name, avoid it.

Recently I purchased a packaged cookie from Trader Joe’s and this is what the label read:

Sorghum Flour, Date Paste, Grape, Apple and Pear Juice Concentrates, Brown Pure Cane Sugar, Expeller Pressed Safflower and/or Sunflower oil, Rice Dextrin, Ground Flaxseed, Water, Xanthan Gum, Baking Soda, Vanilla, Salt, Cinnamon, Rosemary Extract.

This is an acceptable list of ingredients.

2. Ingredient lists don’t have to list chemical contaminants. Pesticides and other toxic chemicals will be there and not be listed on the label. Buy Organic and fresh as much as possible!

3. Whole Grain is healthier. Look for the words “whole grain”. Don’t be fooled by multi-grain or “made with whole grains”. If it just says wheat, it can be processed white wheat flour. This “white” flour has no nutrition, it has been removed.

4. Brown Eggs or not healthier than white eggs, you should buy organic eggs either white or brown. If there is a local farm near you that you can get your eggs from, that is best.

5. Look at your serving sizes. Someone recently joked with me about counting food before packing it for myself or my family. I always read the labels. Especially on treats, if you going to have a treat have one serving. Sometimes you can easily eat up to three times the amount of a serving of food if you don’t know what the serving size is!

6. Avoid the words, Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Bleached, Artificially flavored (even if it says naturally and artificially flavored!), All food coloring (red 40, blue 2…etc) only used natural colorings from beets and other fruits and veggies.

7. The word natural means nothing right now. You have to read the ingredients yourself! I recently read a label that said natural and contained high fructose corn syrup. I also recently turned down a baby product because although it was called natural it had parabens in it! Don’t buy something because it says natural only make sure the ingredients meet your standards!


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