How to Be Health Savvy When Buying Packaged Foods

packaged foods


  • Know the difference between natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners

– Stevia and sugar alcohols (Xylitol, Malitol, Sorbitol) are considered natural ingredients because they are derived from plants. They contain small amounts carbohydrates, but not as much as refined sugar. They are recommended in small amounts. Overuse may cause loose stools.
– Sucralose, advantage, aspartame, acusulfame K and saccharine are chemicals that have no calories, sugar or carbohydrates. They may cause migraines, digestive upsets, stimulate food cravings and may prevent weight loss. It is important to avoid these chemicals.
– Maltodextrin is a sweetener derived from starch. It contains less sugar/carb than actual sugar but still impacts your insulin.
– Fructose (fruit sugar) has been linked to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance and should be avoided unless present in the full fruit form (with fiber). Agave nectar is well known to have high levels of fructose.
– Some raw honey or maple syrup is permitted in small amounts.

• If something is labeled as “sugar free” or “contains no added sugar” it may be a red flag. Check the ingredient list for artificial sweeteners or other sugar containing ingredients.

• Avoid any product with sugar as one of the first ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance.

• When buying packaged foods look for ingredients like “vegetable oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils” and “trans fats”. Avoid those as much as possible. Even small amounts of trans fats in a product can add up if you consume the product frequently.

• Avoid anything with refined seed oils and vegetable oils. These may be: sunflower oil, corn oil, soya bean oil, canola oil and safflower oil. These oils are polyunsaturated oils and damage easily when exposed to light, pressure and oxygen.

• Don’t fear saturated fats or cholesterol – they are essential to health.

• If you are allergic to or intolerant to any foods, always look at the ingredients list as some foods have hidden ingredients. The most common foods to cause intolerance are: gluten, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, or peanuts.

• Avoid any product labeled as “fat free” or “low fat”. Removing fat from foods leaves room for sugar and often it needs sugar to disguise the bland taste left when fat is removed.

• Look for the fiber content of the food. Fiber can slow the release of carbohydrates in foods and lessen the impact on insulin – if fiber has obviously been removed from a product, avoid it.

• Don’t be fooled by marketing. Just because a product says “sugar free” or “gluten free” does not make it healthier. If a product claims to be “cholesterol free” it is not better – anything not made from an animal is naturally cholesterol free.

• Products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals are often red flag foods. Eating real foods will provide you with plenty of nutrition and they do not require fortification.

• Legally, products do not have to list their ingredients (unless they have made claims on the label) so if you are unsure simply judge the item by your nutrition knowledge and its name or description. Ideally avoid any products that do not list ingredients.

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