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How to Decode Your Food Label

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Looking for a simple box of breakfast cereal can get very frustrating when you don't understand the complex ingredient lists!

That's what we're here for. With all of the unrecognisable and unpronouceable words, it can be very intimidating and stressful! 


Looking For Added Sugar


Added sugars might not always be the first ingredients on the ingredient list, but they could be found lower down. If you see any sugar as one of the first ingredients, do not buy that product! This means that sugar is a primary ingredient and makes up a large percentage of the product. Because sugars add in many calories and not many nutrients, taking in those extra sugars will have a negative impact on your health.


One way to find them is by pinpointing them on the nutrition facts label, where the amount of sugar per serving will be shown (check to make sure your portion size matches that of the serving size).


The second way to find those sneaky sugars is by checking your ingredients label. Ingredients that are actually sugar:

- Any word ending with "ose" 

- Any syrup (High-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, etc.)

- Agave nectar

- Any "concentrate"

- Honey

- Molasses

- Cane crystals

- Juices


Feel confused? That's what they want you to feel! If you were able to understand what half of those ingredients actually are, you'd probably be less inclined to buy their product! Be an informed buyer. 



Looking For Added Transfat


Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary source of transfat. Many manufacturers replaced the use of coconut oil in their production process with partially hydrogenated oils when the bad press about saturated fats became widespread. That is why many doctors began recommending margerine over butter. However, many new studies are showing that transfats are actually worse for you body than saturated fats! 


Your body won't recognize the difference between transfats and saturated fats, but  transfats can't perform all of the same functions as saturated fats, thus in effect damaging your body. When your body doesn't take in all its necessary saturated fats, you will feel hungry. This is a biological mechanism that your body uses to let you know that you're actually starving at the cellular level! When you feel hungry or not satisifed after a full meal, that means that you're not eating the right foods. In the end, you will end up overeating the wrong foods, and you will gain weight. That's why it is important to know what transfats are and why they're bad!


Partially hydrogenated oils are oils (usually soybean) that have hydrogen bubbles passed through them. This creates a thicker oil, much like the consistency of butter (but cheaper), that will extend the shelf life of the food product. They can be found in most processed snack foods, all fake butters, and many fried foods. Avoid at all costs!


Looking For Sodium

Sodium is used to increase the shelf life of a product, much like partially hydrogenated oils, but exposure should be limited as it can contribute to high blood pressure. First, check the nutrition label for the amount of sodium per serving. 


Names for sodium:

Monosodium glutamite (MSG)

Sodium nitrate

Sodium Bicarbonate


Sodium is found mostly in processed and restaurant food. When cooking at home, beware of canned foods, deli meats, cheese, and breads.  



Looking For MSG

MSG is a flavor-enhancer, which means that normally bland food will taste quite flavorful with the addition of MSG. MSG is a form of an amino acid called glutamine, which is naturally occurring.  


Ingredients that always contain some MSG:

- Glutamic Acid

- Glutamic

- Hydrolyzed

- Caseinate

- Gelatin

- Soy Protein

- Whey Protein

- Vetsin


Most protein powders will contain whey or soy protein, so you should do some research on the brand you choose to buy. 


Looking For Artificial Sweeteners


Anything that ends in "ose" is an added sugar, such as Fructose, Dextrose, and Sucrose. 

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