Not only is it important to check the nutrition facts when looking at food items, but there is some information you can not find unless you look at the the ingredient list on the label. It is important not to be lured by product labels in the front of the package as they can be misleading. Best rule of thumb is to always go by what the BACK of the product tells you.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When looking at the ingredient list, understand that the ingredients are listed by quantity- from highest to lowest amount. That means that the first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most of. Good rule of thumb is to scan the first 3 items as they make up the largest part of what you are eating. Be sure that the first 3 items does not contain any REFINED grains, any sugars or hydrogenated oils. Any item with these 3 ingredients listed in the first 3 ingredients is sure to be unhealthy. Instead choose items with WHOLE foods listed in the first 3 ingredients.
Try choosing items that do not contain a lot of ingredients. Ingredient lists that are longer than two or three lines suggests that the product may be highly processed. Try using the rule of 5. Pick foods with no more than 5 ingredients on the list!
Be sure you are checking to see if the product contains added sugar. There are so many different names for sugar. Food manufacturers use this to their advantage by purposely adding many different types of sugar to their products to hide the actual amount. In doing so, they can list a healthier ingredient at the top, mentioning sugar further down. So even though a product may be loaded with sugar, it doesn’t necessarily appear as one of the first three ingredients. To avoid accidentally consuming a lot of sugar, watch out for the following names of sugar in ingredient lists:
Types of sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, golden sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, raspadura sugar, evaporated cane juice, and confectioner’s sugar.
Types of syrup: carob syrup, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, maple syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup, and rice syrup.
Other added sugars: barley malt, molasses, cane juice crystals, lactose, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, disaccharides, maltodextrin, and maltose.
Many more names for sugar exist, but these are the most common.
There’s salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate (MSG). There is also Sodium nitrite which is a source of salt. It is found in hotdogs, lunch meats and also used to preserve fish, meats and control bacteria so it plays an important role in manufacturing foods but it still contribute to our total sodium intake. No wonder the American people consume almost DOUBLE the recommended sodium intake per day.
Trans fat is extremely bad for your health. It is formed in 2 ways-naturally in the stomachs of ruminant animals (such as a cow or sheep) and artificially during food processing in a manufacturing process called "partial hydrogenation"n which hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid, and therefore more resistant to becoming spoiled or rancid. The process generally does not make the oil completely solid, resulting in “partially” hydrogenated oils. Sounds delish...
Trans fat formed naturally is found in small amounts in some animal products, such as dairy products, beef, and lamb. Trans fat formed artificially during food processing is found in partially hydrogenated oils, which were used in a variety of foods, such as baked goods, coffee creamer, ready-to-use frostings, snack foods, and stick margarine. As of 2018, most uses of partially hydrogenated oils have been phased out. REFINED vegetable oils may contain a small amount of trans fat as an unintentional byproduct of their manufacturing process.