What to look for on those food and ingredient labels simplified.
For years we struggled with trying to eat more healthy, and trying to find out what is good and what is not was very challenging. Today we want to share with you all our research to help you make the best decision for your food choices for your family without having to go through what we did. We also recommend you do your own research but this is what we have found that fit our lifestyle.
Fitness expert Jack La Lane said it best, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” If you are hardcore about your health you know that this will pretty much eliminate most of what you buy at your local grocery store. We concur with Jack regarding boxed items completely, however, we also found that the labels told a terrifying story as well. Listed below are 16 Ingredients that if you find them in a food item don’t buy it.
16 Food Ingredients to Avoid Eating
1. Ultra-Pasteurized Milk – While we enjoy raw milk, we are not 100% against pasteurization. We are fortunate to have a couple of stores that carry a brand manufactured by the Amish and Mennonite farmers that is low-temperature pasteurized which means that take the milk up to the highest temperature of a cow’s body temperature. This not only keeps the wonderful whey, but the natural probiotics and vitamins that are in milk naturally. This is a great substitute when we cannot get ahold of the dairy for some raw milk. When milk is ultra-pasteurized, it is heated up to 280F, then instantly cooled. The result is a milk that can sit on store shelves for months without refrigeration or spoiling. Regular pasteurization heats milk to about 162F for fifteen seconds. Ultra-pasteurization changes the taste and texture of the milk completely killing anything good inside giving you dead milk with very little nutrition. This is why they have to add or “fortify” the milk with chemically made vitamins which is also not good for your body. One great alternative is Mill King milk, it has not been homogenized or ultra-pasteurized, their cows are grass-fed and there will be cream on top.
Note: The image below is from a milk that has been ultra-pasteurized. Notice the vitamins that has to be added.
Note: This next image below is from a milk that has been low-pasteurized. Notice there are no added sugars, or fillers (gum) it is just milk.
2. High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Added Processed Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners – Many foods contain large amounts of hidden and processed or white sugar. A good example are dried fruits, why on earth would fruit need more sugar. Read the product labels! Look for food without corn syrup, added sugar, or any kind of artificial sweeteners. You should look for acceptable sugar that is naturally occurring or minimally processed like: raw honey, pure maple syrup, or coconut sugar.
Note: High Fructose Corn Syrup is the leading ingredient in almost all soft drink beverages including diet soft drinks. They are great for cleaning the toilet bowl but not so good to consume. Read the labels and do not buy if you see this ingredient.
3. Carrageenan – Carrageenan is a highly debated product. It is usually added to ultra-pasteurized dairy since this process strips dairy of its creamy texture. You can also find it in toothpaste, shampoo and other consumable products. Carrageenan can be harmful if regularly consumed in large amounts. Make sure to read those labels. Carrageenan can be found in store-bought almond milk, except for Silk brand. If you see this on the label don’t buy it.
Note: Always read your labels, this is located in the organic isle of the grocery store, I would not purchase this.
4. Canola, Vegetable, or Soybean Oil – Believe it or not canola oil is not heart-healthy like the advertisements claim. Canola is made from the rapeseed which in the past was only used for industrial purposes due to high amounts of erucic acid (a heart-damaging acid in rat studies). With a little genetic modification the oil was introduced to the public under a new name “canola oil” (formerly known as rapeseed oil).
Just because it says vegetable oil doesn’t necessarily mean it was made from healthy vegetables. Again most vegetable oil is sourced from rapeseed oil, sunflower, corn, soy, safflower, and others. It is high in Omega-6 which in excess can be detrimental to your health. Corn and soy are genetically modified in the US and are huge players in the manufacturing of this oil, along with chemicals and additives.
A better alternative is grass-fed butter (Kerrygold Irish butter) extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and lard (NOT CRISCO) real lard and coconut oil. We use avocado a lot due to its high temperature tolerance.
Note: Don’t be fooled because it has olive oil, the first ingredient is “canola oil” simply put don’t buy it. Read those labels.
5. High Fat or Low Fat that is the question, what about low-fat or fat-free – We have been told to avoid fat, that is wasn’t healthy particularly in dairy products. Manufacturers thought stripping their products of fat and added sugar, artificial flavoring and carrageenan for texture would be an excellent idea. Anytime you see “low-fat’ or “fat-free” used on a product label, RUN! Contrary to popular belief, fat is good as long as it is good fat such as dairy. We cannot emphasize enough, read those product labels.
Note: Yogurt is supposed to be good for you. This one however, has 16g of sugar per 1 cup serving. The container has 4 cups, so in total this one container of yogurt has 64g of sugar total. You might as well just fill up your bowl with sugar and add the yogurt on top. Not to mention this yogurt also is low-fat.
6. Why are they adding Ingredients to Dairy Products? – After they remove all the good fat to make those fat-free people happy they have to do something to make it taste better and look appealing. So, they add more sugar or flavorings like strawberry and banana yogurt or chocolate milk. Canola oil is one of those ingredients that is added to make the product “healthier” and cheaper.
Remember this: if they had to add ingredients to compensate for texture and taste then why did they remove the fat in the first place. Read those labels and purchase whole milk yogurt. If you want fruit flavor add the organic strawberries or bananas yourself.
7. Flavorings: What are they? – To be avoided. Most artificial or so called natural flavorings are not good for you. Look at what is in a supposedly healthy granola bar that has blueberries, it is nothing more than artificial flavoring. The best suggestion is to purchase only real ingredients, like oats, flour, minimally processed sugar, real blueberries verses foods that contain artificial ingredients. Remember, always read those labels.
8. What About Too Many Ingredients? – A lot of companies try to trick us by highlighting specific ingredients on the front of the label. The proof is always revealed on the back side on the ingredient label. Look at the label and ask yourself, “Would I use these ingredients to make this product?” If the list is like a novel and you need a food science degree to interpret don’t buy it.
A good rule to follow is, if that label has more than 10 to 15 ingredients and I don’t know what many of them are, I will not purchase that product.
Note: The item below is an example of too many ingredients. This would definitely fall on my list of no way Jose I won’t buy it.
9. All Vegetarian-Fed Eggs – The labeling industry has really gone crazy. All this means is the hens spend little to no time outside. Newsflash, Chickens are not vegetarians; they love bugs! When buying eggs go for the eggs that are labeled Free-range chickens but be aware that Free-range chickens may also be fed with GMO corn and soy. At present there are no regulations for “free-range eggs. Cage-free eggs don’t necessarily mean they can run around outdoors they usually do not have access or natural food from outdoors.
Our best advice is to buy from a local farmer or farmers market. Ask them how they raise their birds. You can definitely tell the difference between commercially raised chicken eggs and the eggs from a local famer. Read those labels.
Note: Don’t be fooled by fancy labeling, read everything on the label. Avoid the eggs if they have anything you feel that you would not like to eat.
10. What Exactly Does “Healthy” Mean? – Don’t be fooled just because the word “Healthy” is printed on the box. That word doesn’t make it so. Our advise is to avoid packaged foods that have to proclaim the “healthy” qualities of the product with that big word.
11. Conventional Meat or Natural – Marketing companies have done their homework and know that consumers are drawn to certain words or catch phases. Just because a label states the product is “All natural” simply means that the food doesn’t contain any artificial colors, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients; even though meat usually doesn’t contain any of these; consumers are easily tricked into believing the food is pure. Conventional or natural meat is usually fed heavy amounts of corn, soy, grain (GMO) and other by-products as well as being raised in large feedlots or hen houses versus being raised on pasture.
Note: Read the label, look for the USDA Organic Certified and the NON-GMO Project Verified labels, those are good meats. Another tip, either buy your meat from a Kosher butcher or Halal. Both will follow the Old Testament practices of raising and slaughtering animals. Never buy any meat from any Asian country only buy Made in USA meat.
12. Artificial Food Dye – Simply put, we do not purchase any food products that contain artificial food dye. Read your labels! When you are needing to use a food dye for cake frosting, Easter eggs, and all your Holiday baking, always search for plant-derived dye. We use Earth Paint Natural Dyes made from fruits, herbs, and vegetables.
13. Farm Raised Fish and Seafood – Remember that quote from Jack La Lane, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” The particularly applies to the farm raised fish and seafood industry. According to (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/common-resources/fish/fish-farming/offshore/problems/) “farm raised fish contain higher levels of chemical pollutants than wild fish, including PCBs, which are known carcinogens. This is due to higher concentrations in the fish feed. Antibiotics are also a problem with farm-raised fish, effecting consumers directly as well as by developing super strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, making diseases less treatable, and perpetuates the cycle of increased antibiotic use.”
Note: Only buy wild caught fish or seafood and only buy if sourced from the USA. You cannot trust any seafood from any of the Asian countries due to lack of healthy manufacturing practices.
14. Imitation Anything – I have to ask, “why would you want to put something not natural into your body?” DON’T! A lot of your more expensive products like vanilla extract and maple syrup often have less expensive alternatives. They are cheaper because they are made with cheap, non-nutritious ingredients usually formulated in a plant instead of being sourced from a plant.
Note: The Log Cabin Pancake Syrup contains High Fructose Corn Syrup. Avoid these kinds of syrups at all costs. Look for Organic Maple Syrup like the Kirkland brand at Costco, it is 100% maple syrup, no other additives and it is certified organic.
15. Soy Lecithin: GMO – Usually can be found in chocolate and who doesn’t like chocolate. Again “Read those Labels!” Look for non GMO labels to identify what to purchase. Organic is always the best choice. An excellent chocolate chip substitute is Carob Chips or Lilys Dark Chocolate Baking Chips.
16. Food for the kids – The fast food and restaurant industry has really taken advantage of advertising their food as “kid-friendly” which is actually a joke as most “kid-friendly” food contains food dyes, a lot of refined sugar and additives. Kids should have fun when they eat but not foods with a bunch of fake ingredients that will harm their developing bodies. Shopping for food for the kiddos can be quite challenging especially with young children who are just beginning to enjoy real food choices. Companies invest millions of dollars into advertising because they know how to draw their attention. Remember those toys inside the cereal boxes, and those amazing bright colors. As a parent it is your responsibility to teach your children about real food versus fake food they need to know in order to make good choices. Sometimes it is best to simply make food for the kids at home like homemade chicken nuggets, fresh organic fruits added to organic yogurt.
We know shopping can be a real challenge and you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not to worry, our complicated food industry and all those labels make it easier for you to shop, especially now that you have been informed. Do your own research. We hope that you take away from this:
- Read those labels. Ask yourself, “Would I, or do I want to use these ingredients in my home?”
- Become and informed consumer. Start to question everything. Do your research on the companies that are committed to manufacturing cleaner food. The more you know the better purchasing of real food products you will become.
- Finally, stick to ingredients versus packaged food. Remember, homemade food tastes better than packaged food and you know what you are putting into it so you don’t have to worry about reading the label.