Posted on 2009-01-26 at 9:12 p.m..
How do I read packaging? What's good, what's bad?
1) Don’t be duped by marketing.
Remember, the front of the label is food marketing at its most clever. It is designed to seduce you into an emotional purchase and may contain exaggerated claims.
2) Look for quality ingredients.
High-quality organic whole foods are now available in packages, cans, and boxes.
3) Check the order of ingredients.
The most abundant ingredient is listed first and then the others are listed in descending order by weight. If the real food is at the end of the list and sugars or salt are at the beginning of the list, beware.
4) Consider what’s NOT on the label.
Foods that are exempt from labels include foods in very small packages, foods prepared in the store, and foods made by small manufacturers.
5) Look for additives or problem ingredients.
If the product contains high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, put it back on the shelf. As I explained earlier, simply looking at the level of trans fats can be deceptive; you need to look at the actual ingredients to sniff out these dangerous fats.
6) Look for ingredients that don’t agree with you.
Identify food ingredients you are sensitive or react to, such as gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, tree nuts, or peanuts. Be vigilant about reading labels, as these ingredients are often “hidden” in the foods you least suspect. The labeling of common allergens is not always clear or helpful.
7) Investigate unfamiliar ingredients.
Search the Internet to find credible sources of information about any unfamiliar ingredients on the label before you buy. These include such as carmine, Quorn, and diacylglycerol. Credible Internet sources tend to be government or educational sites, which end in “.gov” or “.edu” rather than “.com.”
8) Discover if any “functional-food ingredients” are being added to the food product.
Though they may be helpful, more often than not, they are “window dressing” present in small amounts, and with minimal value -- except to the marketing department of the manufacturer. Examples of this include live active cultures added to high-sugar, high-fat yogurt or vitamins and minerals added to gumballs!
In other words, it’s best to get healthful, functional-food ingredients from their whole-food sources, rather than as additives to otherwise nutritionally empty foods.
9) Finally, ask yourself: Would your great-grandmother have served this food?
Before you analyze the numbers, ask yourself if this food could have been served at your great-grandmother’s table. She only served real food.