Understanding Ingredients on Food Labels

Deciphering a food label can be pretty confusing. I’m sharing a few tricks on what I look for and more importantly a few of my favorite pantry items below.
I’m not a doctor, but being a life long athlete I am certainly the authority of my own active body. I’ve seen it ebb and flow through many changes over the years, especially when it comes to nutrition. A large part of understanding how nutrition effects you is understanding ingredients on the food labels you are consuming.

Symptoms of inflammation

Whenever I consume too much added/artificial sugar and/or gluten, I notice an inflammatory response. Bloating, skin irritations, an even post nasal drip. I can remember these symptoms going back to when I was a young girl. I spent a lot of my childhood experiencing tummy trouble or discomfort and not really understanding why. During my college years, this manifested as cystic acne. I had never experienced that before. This lead me to try many skin care programs, all with fail. All of these symptoms were symptoms of inflammation. It wasn’t until my early thirties I learned about the relationship between food and skin. As I began to implement nutritional changes, I began to notice a difference in my skin, bloating, and energy levels. In short, I learned how my body responded to certain foods. My nutrition had been the culprit all along.

This is important

Symptoms like these are the body’s way of letting you know something isn’t right. Since acquiring my personal training and fitness nutrition specialist certifications, the learnings I have gained over the years lead me to believe I have a sensitivity to these items. I cant definitively classify it as an allergy or intolerance as I have not done formal testing. Simply an observation based on my experience and expertise. While we may not fully understand the reason our bodies react to foods, it is important to understand what we consume when possible and be mindful of how we feel after.
Too much inflammation leaves the body in a high alert or stress response. This can hinder the heart, liver, blood vessels and other organs from functioning properly even leading to premature aging. With that, I wanted to aid my own body in feeling it’s best without sacrificing taste or my food indulgences. Making a few tweaks to my grocery list have helped me keep excess inflammation at bay and will allow me to enjoy my favorites on the regular.
The past 6-8 months I’ve become more tune with my body and how it responds to food. I have spent more time understanding labels. From beauty to boxed goods and everything in between. It can become a full time job reading and researching labels and ingredients. Gluten and added sugars can serve as shelf stabilizers for processed food. Frankly, I prefer to eat foods that are meant to be consumed more quickly, fresh food. Spending my shopping time at the farm stand or produce section makes for easy quality control, but we do love a good taco shell, pasta dish, or chip.

What to look for

A few hints I recommend when grabbing for packaged goods:

1. Look for as few ingredients as possible. Shopping in the produce section of the market makes this super easy. No labels, no problem. When it comes to frozen or canned veggies, the only ingredient on those labels should be that item.

2. Quality over calorie. When interpreting ingredient labels be sure you can identify what each ingredient is. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t consume it. I opt for whole nutrient dense food any day over a chemical that claims a health benefit or low calorie.

3. Keep your eye out for added sugar. Fruit and dairy products have naturally occurring sugars, fructose and lactose. It is the added or artificial forms that cause pesky problems. Added sugar on a label may sound like: high fructose corn syrup, corn or rice syrup, molasses, or artificial sweeteners.

4. Note that ingredients are listed in order of quantity in descending order.  The most of something is first.

***While keeping these recommendations in your back pocket, be sure not to miss out on life’s sweet moments. Enjoy the wedding cake or a plate of pasta at your favorite Italian joint. Life is meant to be lived. These tricks are simply to help you manage your intake when appropriate.***

If this is all still a bit too confusing, let me share some of the work I have done with you. Here are a few products I’ve discovered that leave me feeling fully satisfied. I hope you enjoy them and consider making them a part of your kitchen stock pile as well.

Beet Chips, Cranberries, Dragonfruit Chips: Each only package only contains 1 ingredient . This stash is from Thrive Market.


Other good finds:

Banza offers a variety of pasta shapes. Easy to find at Target, Harris Teeter, or Whole Foods.

May 11, 2020


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