Your Guide to Prepackaged Foods
It’s back to school time and our lives can get hectic so it’s no wonder we look for shortcuts, even when it comes to food. We have learned processed foods are not healthy, but we grab them for the sheer convenience of it.
With so many options out there, it’s hard to know exactly what’s safe and what to avoid. Follow these tips when reading an ingredient label and you’ll be certain to pick the healthiest option.
Beware of the Buzzwords
Diet and health buzzwords have been passed around for years on packages and labels, and though some may be misleading or not completely true, there are some simple keywords to watch for:
- Whole Grain – Foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products. Choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients first on the label’s ingredient list:
- brown rice
- rolled oats
- whole-grain barley
- whole-grain corn
- whole-grain sorghum
- whole-grain triticale
- whole oats
- whole rye
- whole wheat
- wild rice
- Organic – Organic products are grown in environmentally friendly ways. Toxic persistent pesticides and many other agricultural chemicals are prohibited. Avoiding agricultural chemicals is one of the top reasons to eat organic food.
- Light – With options that are considered “light”, you’re certain to find fewer calories than the same brand’s regular items, just make sure to check the ingredients list for unhealthy fillers.
What to Avoid
Nitrates/Nitrites – Found often in packaged meats, nitrates and nitrites are preservatives that aren’t necessary. Though these items stay fresh longer, the nitrates are not a natural ingredient.
- Artificial Sweeteners – Consuming too much added sugar, even natural sweeteners, may lead to health problems. All artificial sweeteners are not created equal. The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – This concentrated sweetener is actively avoided by food makers who care about creating healthy snacks. Find labels that proclaim “no high fructose corn syrup”.
As long as you’ve done your research and read labels, you can still have snacks and ingredients that are healthy for your family, without the risk of unnatural additives or preservatives.