If you’re always busy and have little time to prepare meals, you probably rely on packaged foods to cut down on cooking time. Packaged foods are not only simple and convenient, but they also taste great. Unfortunately, many packaged goods are loaded with salt and sugar, which can be detrimental to your health when consumed in large amounts.
Others contain harmful chemicals and additives that can cause future health complications. Luckily, knowing which of these ingredients to avoid can help you maintain good health and prevent unnecessary weight gain.
When buying processed foods from your local grocery store, here’s what to look for on the ingredients and what to watch out for.
What To Look For:
1. The Ingredients Listed First
The first ingredients on the list should be the main ingredients of the product. For instance, if you want to buy a fresh chicken salad, the first ingredient listed should be chicken, the base ingredient. If the product lists other ingredients first, steer clear.
2. Short Ingredient Lists
Generally, the shorter the ingredient list, the better. If something is loaded with ingredients, it likely contains several additives or chemicals that are not safe for consumption.
3. Serving Size
Most times, packaged goods contain multiple servings, so keep this in mind when looking at fat, sugar, and salt content. If the number of nutrient content per serving is unusually high, you probably want to skip it.
4. Amount Of Sodium And Sugar
The majority of the sodium and sugar you consume comes from packaged foods. So, always look at the amount of sugar and sodium when grocery shopping to avoid eating more than the daily recommended amount.
For sodium, try to stick to less than 1500 milligrams a day, and for sugar, stick to only 25 grams a day. Also, look out for added sugars and pick foods containing natural sugars.
5. Percentage That’s Real Food
Most packaged foods don’t use real food in the production process. For instance, it’s normal to find strawberry muffin mixes that use artificial strawberry flavors instead of real strawberries. Therefore, look for ingredients that say 100% real juice or 100% whole meat to ensure you’re getting the real food.
What To Watch Out for:
1. Ingredients Ending In “-ose”
Normally, this suffix represents some type of sugar like maltose, fructose, or dextrose. If you’re jumpstarting your healthy eating journey, you might want to avoid such ingredients in your packaged food.
2. Ingredients you can’t pronounce
If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it probably means it’s not safe for consumption and doesn’t occur in nature. While not all ingredients that can’t be pronounced are bad for you, they aren’t as good either. Therefore, if there are more than one or two, that’s a red flag.
3. Artificial Flavors
These are man-made chemicals added to packaged products to enhance their flavor. Manufacturers use artificial flavors instead of real food to cut down on production costs. But, they’re not good for your health and can cause cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive issues.