Nutrition labels can be really complicated and confusing. Just a reminder, I’m not a health or nutrition professional. But I am a person who’s spent a lot of time learning about food and how it affects my body. I listen to a lot of health and nutrition professionals and I read their books. Over the years, I’ve continually come back to one key point: Simplicity is key when it comes to food. I don’t pay attention to every single tiny line item of my food’s nutrition labels, but I do know what to look for on the food label (hint: it’s the ingredients list).
“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”Michael Pollan
What to Look for on the Food Label: Number of Ingredients
If the list of ingredients is longer than what I might see in a cook book, I’m likely not buying it.
Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule and nobody is perfect. There are times that I buy super processed nasty junk food because it sounds good, or it’s all that’s readily available or whatever.
But, if I’m doing my normal grocery shopping and come across some fun new snack, you better believe I’m putting it right back on the shelf if that ingredient list is taking up most of the wrapper.
Recognizable Food Names
I don’t stop just at the size of the ingredient list, though. Sometimes, the list is short and sweet, but the ingredients themselves are insane.
This where I default to Michael Pollan’s rule, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
So, I avoid things like sorbitol.
Speaking of which . . .
Did you know sorbitol is another name for sugar?!
When determining what to look for on the food label, it’s important to recognize that food manufacturers like to sneak sugar into their ingredients list under all kinds of different names. Take an Oats n’ Honey Nature Valley granola bar for instance. Advertised as a health food, it contains three different types of sugar (one of which is the 2nd ingredient!!).
Pay attention to the ingredients.
Just Eat Real Food
Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Stick with whole, simple foods as a general rule, then you won’t have to know what to look for on the food label. When eating processed foods, do what you can to avoid added sugars.
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