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Food labels…Read between the lines

There’s always a lot of talk about duplicity in the marketing of food. Generally what you find in a box is in some way processed and its freshness compromised or diluted down. Fresh food is just that, fresh.

Nourishment is an inside job, what we put in affects how we look and feel. Making good choices gets harder when pretty packaging draws us, or our young ones, in. These five tips have been written about with frequency, and yet, not often enough. Think of this as the chorus to your favorite song, the one they repeat for a reason. So you can’t get it out of your head. Read labels, and then read between the lines. Be a food detective. What you uncover may actually help you live a bit longer.

  • Don’t be fooled by the big letters (aka advertising/marketing) on the front of the package, look for the letters on the back or side (the ingredient list!)… that’s where the truth is.
  • The first ingredient is always the biggest. A food is mostly made up of the ingredients that come first on its list; does your cereal list sugar as its first ingredient? If so, put it down and step away from the box!
  • Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and high fructose corn syrup. Partially hydrogenated oils damage your blood vessels and heart and high fructose corn syrup, which is a form of sugar, sneaks into many, many shelf stable products.
  • Avoid foods with a long ingredient list. Foods with long lists tend to hide a lot of not-so-good-for-you ingredients, while foods with shorter lists tend to be more natural and better for your health.
  • Fiber is your friend! Choose breads, pasta, cereals, cereal bars, and crackers made with whole grains. They should have at least 2 grams of fiber per 100 calories. Fiber is proof that the grain item is actually made from the whole grain, not a grain that has been stripped of its nutritious parts, e.g. wheat flour vs. whole wheat flour (whole wheat flour wins).

If you head to the grocery store equipped with these five clues, I’m certain your food purchases will be wiser and healthier!


Karin Yapalater MFA, CHHC, AADP
Board Certified Individual & Family Health & Nutrition Counselor
Park Avenue Integrative Health Practitioners
715 Park Avenue • New York, NY 10021
Phone: 212-737-1818
Email Karin