Here is the first loaf I picked up, Archer Farms 100% whole wheat bread
And of course, you can see how many ingredients there are, such as:
- Azodicarbonamide - Dough conditioner banned in Europe because studies showed it could cause asthma or allergic reactions.
- Calcium propionate - preservative which, in the 1990's, was linked to attention deficit disorder in children
So, it got me thinking. I was completely unaware of what to look for on the back of a package of food about a year ago. Basically, I looked at the calories per serving and that's about it. I realized that most people just pick up things at the store without even flipping the box or bag over to see what's really in the "food" they're buying. I really wished someone had told me a long time ago exactly what to look for and what to stay away from! Here are a couple tips on what to look for and stay away from at the grocery store.
1. Don't read the advertising/marketing on the front of the package! Food companies are very tricky. They might boast about having lots of fiber and then you flip the box over and one serving has 20 grams of sugar. You MUST look for yourself. I very rarely look at what is printed on the front of the package anymore.
2. Look at the number of ingredients. The more ingredients, the more processed the food. When they make, say chips, they break it down and have to keep adding things to it to make it taste more like real food. If it has a long ingredient list, IT'S NOT REAL FOOD...put down the box.
3. Look for and avoid hidden sugars:
Corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, glucofructose, honey, molasses, maple syrup, maltose, sucrose, and artificial sweeteners (such as saccharin and aspartame)
4. Here are some additives and preservatives to avoid 100% of the time:
- Artificial colors (red, green, yellow, FD&C colors) - some studies have linked this to childhood behavioral issues
- Benzoate preservatives (BHA & BHT) - known to cause hyperactivity in children and is considered a carcinogen by the US Dept of Health and Human Services
- Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) - is banned in more than 100 countries and the FDA calls is "suspect" as a carcinogen
- Potassium Bromate - Food additive banned in Europe, Canada, and most other countries, considered carcinogenic
- Propylene glycol - a chemical found in personal care products, linked to cancer, reproductive issues, allergies, and endocrine issues.
- Propyl Gallate - food additive that some studies have shown to cause cancer, skin irritability, allergic reactions which cause breathing issues, and kidney and liver problems.
- Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite - additive in 99% of all deli meats and hot dogs, is one of the most well known carcinogens
- Mono sodium glutamate (MSG) - flavor enhancer found to cause headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, and weakness
- Olestra - A fat substitute, which has shown to be a carcinogen, along with causing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup - a sweetener which has been linked to obesity, weight gain, and diabetes
- Make sure first ingredient is whole wheat flour and there is no white or processed flour ingredients
- Look for breads that have only a few ingredients. The best breads have no preservatives and must be stored in your fridge because they go bad faster than other breads.
6. Canned Goods:
- Watch the sodium! Many canned soups contain 800+ mg of sodium (for 1 serving, but most soups have 2 servings in 1 can), so with 1 can of soup you're eating 50% of your daily intake of sodium! Can we say water retention?
- Make sure your soup doesn't have MSG or equivalents. Most soups that say "healthy!" on the label contain this flavor enhancer. See above list on chemicals to avoid.
- Don't buy your fruit in a can! They always add a thick sugary juice to the can. Fruit has enough natural sugar as it is, you don't need any more.
- Try to find BPA- free cans, where available.
- Make sure your cereal is a natural color, NO ARTIFICIAL COLORS...this means you, Fruit Loops. See above list on which chemicals, additives to avoid.
- First thing, check the sugar content! See the best and worst cereals list from EWG to know which cereals are better for your family.
- Go for the "original" version of the given cereal. Such as Cheerios Original or Kix Original. When you add fancy versions like "honey nut", it just ups the sugar content!
- Check sugar amount
- Check and make sure there are no artificial colors
- Make sure there is no added high fructose corn syrup (I think you will find 90% of all kids snacks have this in it).
- Chips are not at all healthy, but if you do buy them, check for fewer ingredients, no saturated fat, and organic corn chips, if available.
- Nuts - raw, unsalted only!
Anyway, when was the last time your child was hungry for a snack and a little bag of "fruit snacks" actually satiated their hunger? I'll answer that for you, NEVER. We need real food for "snacks" if we're truly hungry and NEED a snack. If we're just eating out of sheer boredom, the boxed snacks may help, but we really shouldn't be doing that anyway. Here is a blog I wrote on Healthy Snack Options.
9. Frozen Foods:
I only buy a couple things frozen, some veggies and berries (for smoothies/yogurt/pancakes)
- Make sure the veggies you buy have no added sauce or cheese, just the veggies as the only ingredient.
- Make sure there are no preservatives or chemicals.
- Frozen berries I try to find organic just because many of them are on the "dirty dozen" list for high pesticides.
- I buy organic dairy 100%. Why? No hormones or antibiotics!
- Check for rennet-free cheese
- Make sure cheese comes from rBGH-free cows (no hormones)
- Yogurt - check the sugar. Some Yoplait yogurts have as much sugar as a Snickers bar. I buy only organic plain non-fat greek yogurt. If I need it sweeter, I put a little agave on top. SO DELISH!
- Cheddar cheese should not be orange. If it is, it's because they add a chemical, annato, for color.
- Buy your cheese in the block form and shred or grate it yourself. When it's already shredded or grated, they have to add lots of preservatives so that it won't go bad.
- I don't buy cottage cheese anymore. I haven't found a "clean" version without added chemicals and preservatives
- DO NOT BUY margarine..it's not real food! If you buy butter, go for REAL butter or I buy Earth Balance Soy Butter and it's very good.
- Organic grass-fed beef
- Organic hormone/antibiotic free chicken
- Look for deli meats with no nitrites or nitrates on the ingredient list, such as Applegate brand
- "Uncured" hot dogs, nitrite/nitrate free
I hope these tips help some of you! I sure wish I had this list a year ago when I started on this "real food" journey. If you have any question about any of the foods I listed, see My FB Page, under Photos: Kitchen Staples.
Thanks for reading!!