Health & Wellness

Clean Eating Basics: Food Labels 101

Reading food labels is tricky business. There are two on the products you purchase: Nutrition Facts and Ingredients. Only one of these is worth your time and you may be surprised at which one it is!

Let’s talk useless first. The Nutrition Label. It is not even accurate! The FDA allows for up to 20% discrepancy in the labeling of the calories, salt, sugar and whatever else you are spending your precious time on. That means you could be getting 20% MORE of each of those things! (Insert the big eyeballs emoji here because that’s what my face does at this craziness.) In addition, say the product in hand is 100 calories. Well do you think that John Cena and Rosie O’Donnell burn 100 calories in the same way or amount of time? NO. So what do the calories even matter? And while we are speaking of calories, let me share this little tidbit. A calorie is a unit of energy, and it is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg. of water 1 degree Celsius. Blah, blah, who cares.

Now for the important stuff…the stuff worth your time…the stuff you can change your life with!

The Ingredient Label will tell you SO MUCH MORE about what is in your food. It literally tells you exactly what is inside the product. But, before you run off with your grocery list, there are a few important things you need to know about that label.

  1. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity. This means that the first ingredient makes up the most of the weight in the product and the list descends from there. Watch out though – sugars, sodium, and fats can go by different names. Sheesh. I know. They make it so difficult. (This is why eating food with no label at all is best!) Sugars can be listed as high fructose corn syrup, molasses, agave, dehydrated cane syrup, dextrose, fructose and most anything else that ends in “ose.” Sodium and salts can be listed as MSG (monosodium glutamate), disodium, nitrates, and sodium benzoate. Fats can be listed as many kinds of oils, including hydrogenated oils. You get the point here. They are putting  A LOT of chemicals in our foods.
  2. A good basic rule is to pay close attention to the first three ingredients. That’s the bulk of what you will ingest. As a general policy, I recommend you stay away from sugar being one of the first two ingredients. Remember how they hide sugars with tricky names!
  3. Products with more than five or six ingredients are generally not considered “clean.” If the list is longer than 2 lines, that food is highly processed and you want to avoid it.

Obviously, the way to avoid being misled is to avoid products with a label in the first place. I know this is not always possible but there is almost always a better choice. Whole foods don’t need a label because the food IS the ingredient. Shop the perimeter of the store and only visit the aisles for canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, and waters. Now get to your pantry and PURGE!

Any comments or questions? Let me know!

Love and Health,



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