Sometimes you can feel like you need a science degree to understand food ingredient labels these days! And while it's better to buy organic whole foods whenever you can, you may occasionally want in indulge in a pre-packaged treat (even vegan) or loaf of bread (even gluten-free) and the ingredients may not exactly deliver all the health benefits the packaging promises. However, with a little know how you can begin to spot key words that indicate whether you should put this item in your cart or keep on shopping for a better alternative. This is just a beginner's list, but I hope it will add to your confidence to choose the healthiest options for you and your family.
Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs) – Instead look for the stamp "NON-GMO Project Verified." This guarantees that none of the ingredients used were genetically mofified. This is super important. If you want to learn more about genetically modified foods, read this. I especially look for this on any products containing corn or soy, as these are two of the highest genetically modified goods.
Potato Starch – If I’m buying anything that’s a pre-packaged gluten-free product (the list of which I buy is surprisingly short). I watch out for low-quality ingredients such as potato flour. Potato flour is just going to turn straight to sugar in your body, not providing any lasting nutrition or energy. Instead I look for ingredients like brown rice flour.
Sugars – There are a long list of sugars I try to avoid and a very short ones of which I allow in moderation. With that being said, generally avoid processed foods (even gluten-free or vegan that have added sugar).
“Natural” – Ironically this word means very little in the food labeling world. There’s no standardized meaning for the word, so it doesn’t guarantee you very much. Instead look for words like certified organic or non-GMO verified.
Oils – Again, like sugars, there are a lot of oils that are not healthy for our bodies. Most oils add to unnecessary inflammation in our bodies and often free radicals (think opposite of antioxidants). It can be really hard to find, but if something has been cooked at high heat it’s best if it was in coconut oil, and for low heats extra-virgin olive oil is a better choice.
If you’d like to learn more about understanding how to avoid unknowingly adding harmful ingredients in your groceries, you can sign register for the local Something Gorgeous Mamas Montreal workshop where we'll cover this topic more in depth (or online styling coming soon, stay tuned!).