Ingredient labels are the epitome of technicalities.
The following tips and suggestions are provided for informational and educational purposes only. This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you struggle with weight, nutrition, or another physical illness, please seek advice from a nutritionist or a qualified health provider.
Creating better eating habits is an excellent place to start when it comes to improving your health. Part of this process includes making smarter choices at the grocery store. This means you’re probably reading labels of food packaging more often.
Labels should help you better understand the food you want to buy, not confuse you.
You don’t need any PhDs or certifications to be able to crack the codes on ingredient labels.
You need to remember this one trait about ingredient labels:
Food manufacturers have one goal: money.
Not all manufacturers are like this. (This is the twenty-first century.) But here in the U.S., most are. Food manufacturers don’t care about your fitness goals or your health journey. But they have a way of convincing you they do.
Take serving sizes, for example. It’s a great way to ensure you’re consuming your preferred amount of nutrition. But the only way it works is to do the correct math. Manufactures like to shave off the amount in a single serving size to make it seem like you’re consuming less sugar, carbs, calories, things like that.
My favorite is when they take it a step further by shaving off part of the food itself, such as half a granola bar, or half a cookie.
In the broad scheme of things, no. A whole granola bar isn’t typically a life-altering difference from half of a granola bar. What’s important to note here is that ingredient labels and food packaging are not designed to help you along on your fitness journey. They’re designed to make a sale.
The good news is this: you have more power than you think. It’s your health journey, and it’s your money. You have what it takes to make the best choice for you, whether that means putting it in your shopping cart or back on the shelf.
It takes time to become a master of reading ingredients. So in closing, here are a few ingredient-reading habits and rules I’ve picked up over time.
- If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it’s probably not a good ingredient.
- If the first 2–3 ingredients are whole foods, you’re on the right track.
- If it’s taking you longer than when you read the Harry Potter series to read the ingredients list, put it back. The fewer ingredients you see, the better.
- Be wary of claims on the front of the package (or ignore it altogether).
You don’t have to be an ingredient label expert from the get-go.
Just remember to avoid depending on food manufacturers for guidance and support on your health journey. Your best advocate is you.