Food Labels – Reading Between the Lines

With so many of us trying to eat clean and green, we often look for food labeled “Organic”, “No sugar” and “Gluten-free”. We believe we are picking out the healthiest version of that food, but unless we are reading the exact ingredients on the back of the packaging, we may have been fooled by false advertising and misleading terminology. Let’s discuss about how to really read ingredients and how to avoid being tricked into more calories or into picking unhealthy foods!


For those diagnosed with Celiac and or have gluten allergies, this label is VERY important. But for those of us who do not have gluten allergies, gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy or less calories. Most gluten-free products contain more calories and less fiber to aid in those where gluten can cause bowel and digestion issues. If these symptoms don’t pertain to you, all you may be doing is upping your calories, starch, fats, and sugars (which make these products more desirable to eat). So, unless you have the official diagnosis, it’s best to steer clear of the packaged gluten-free foods and snacks.

Trans-Fat Free

We all are aware of the “good” and “bad” fats; trans-fat being one of the bad kinds. Trans-fats are treated in such a way to preserve shelf life while changing the texture. According to the FDA, manufacturers can report zero trans-fat on their nutrition labels if the trans-fat is .5 grams or less in a serving! This means we could consume many servings of these products, thinking there is none of this fat added while the opposite is true. Look for words like “Hydrogenated oils” or “Partially hydrogenated oils”. This means trans-fats! Most products with these ingredients are quick junk foods; so the more you stray away from these, the less you will have to worry about the trans-fats!

Fructose Corn Syrup

As with trans-fats, there is no reason for extra sugar in our lives! Look for ingredients like: honey, molasses, sucrose, fructose, and fruit juice concentrate. If any of these ingredients are the first four listed on a food product, there is going to be a high amount of sugar. This goes for drinks and foods – the less sugar we consume, the less fat and calories, and so on.

Low Fat

This is the sneakiest of them all. Food and food products labeled low fat and non-fat are basically a trigger in our brain saying: “Hey fat-free! We can eat as much as we want!” Fact is, that fat-free and low fat just mean more sugar, more or the same calories, starches, carbs, or even more cholesterol as full fat products! When one ingredient is taken out, the manufacturer will add more of something else to make it more palpable and edible to the consumer. The main low-fat foods we should focus on are lean meats and low fat dairy. Everything else is just pumped with sugar and will process through our bodies, storing it as fat anyway!

As you can see, reading the nutrition facts and every ingredient that goes into foods we eat are extremely important. Only you can regulate what goes into your body; don’t let labels fool you! Take control and take charge of your nutrition and body!