Processed foods are consumed often these days due to the availability and conveniency, however they can be high in sodium, saturated or trans fats, added sugar, and calories, and typically contain little to no nutrients. They can cause weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, digestion issues, and negatively impact how we feel. You would be surprised to know that some “health foods” out there aren't as healthy as you think. Granola bars, flavored nuts, cereals, yogurt, etc. can often contain a lot of additives. Therefore, it's important to read the labels if you want to limit processed foods. Here are a few tips to hopefully support you on your next grocery shopping trip.
Tips for Reading Labels
Don't fall for the claims on the front of the package and look at the nutrition label on the back of it
Choose items with minimal ingredients that you can understand
Check the serving size and calories and compare it to your daily needs
Choose items with lower sodium, saturated/trans fat, and added sugars
Check the types of fat- Be on the lookout for saturated and trans fats and the term "partially hydrogenated fats". Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the healthy fats.
Check the sugar- Sugar can be disguised as corn syrup, rice and maple syrup, molasses, honey, malted barley, barley malt, sorbitol, maltitol, dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, etc. Aim to consume products with less added sugars.
Check to make sure any grain says "whole" before it. Sometimes, it will say wheat flour which sounds healthy, but it's refined flour. If it states "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as the first ingredient or second behind water, then it will be less processed and more nutrient dense.
Choose items with higher fiber and protein content to keep you full and satisfied
Nutrition Label Comparison
Both of these are energy bars that are advertised as "healthy". Although they are close in calories, you will notice that the Cliff bar has 15 more grams of added sugar and is higher in sodium than the LARABAR. You will also notice that the LARABAR only has two ingredients compared to the long list of ingredients in the Cliff bar which mostly involves sugar. You might be surprised to know that the Cliff bar actually has more sugar in it than the average candy bar. Whereas the LARABAR has no added sugar and contains healthy fats and fiber that will keep you full and satisfied longer.
"Healthier" Product Ideas
Here are some of my go to products that you can find at most grocery stores. They have minimal and nutritious ingredients, and they taste great! There are so many other "healthier" products out there too. Reading the label will help you identify more nutritious options for your favorite packaged or prepared foods.
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Biena chickpea snacks
Dr. Praegar's veggie burgers
Primal Kitchen sauces
Simple Truth peanut or almond butter (only contains two ingredients including nuts and salt, whereas the standard Jiff contains added sugar, saturated fats, and salt)
Purely Elizabeth Granola
Thank you for stopping by! I hope you found some value in this, and have a healthy and happy rest of your week!