The Basics on Reading Packaged Food Ingredients {simple, easy and will save your damn life!}

It’s fundamental to understand that it’s not only about what foods you eat but also about their quality and what they’re made of.

Many products on grocery store shelves today are food-like substances, they don’t kill you immediately when you ingest them but they’re not actually food. They are a surplus of cheap, poorly farmed crops {like corn and soy} processed into chemicals in a lab that are made to look, feel and smell like the foods you know. Also, they are engineered to addict you to them and make you want more more more.

Companies do this because it’s cheap and because the “foods” they produce have long shelf lives. They do not do this because they are passionate about the products they produce or because they care about your health. In fact, these companies do not care about your health…whatsoever. They care about their bottom line. Only their bottom line.

So many of the products in stores today are cheap and shitty, harmful to your health and addictive. Yet they have expensive branding, packaging and advertising — so they appear high-quality, they are in your face every day and feel familiar. But it’s a facade, these foods truly are scary.

So what to do!? Simply avoid them. It’s easy —

Any food you buy, turn the package over and read the ingredient list. If the ingredient list is short and contains foods you know or would stock in your pantry on their own, then you’re good to go. Examples: whole wheat flour, almonds, water, salt, yeast, olive oil, organic chicken, brown rice, etc.

On the other hand, if the ingredients are long words that you can’t pronounce or identify, they are most likely chemical substances and should be avoided at all costs. Examples: acetaldehyde, diacetyl, flavors, natamycin, tocopherol…you catch my drift. The thing about many of these ingredients is that mayyyybbbeeee if you ingest a small amount in isolation once in a while you’d be ok, but if all of the foods you eat are made up of many of these, all day long, every day…then that adds up to way too much! Plus, even if these chemicals are tested on their own {which many of them are not even adequately tested}, who knows what the effects are when they’re combined.

In a nutshell, these chemical processed ingredients are confusing for your body and hard to digest {seriously, your body tries but does not know what to do with these substances}, they have no nutritional value, they cause sludge and buildup inside, they’re addictive and definitely don’t make you glow.

They’re also harmful for the environment, the farming methods use a lot of chemical pesticides that pollute our soil, water and air.

Why, tell me why! Would we eat these foods?

Real foods from nature help you — they have nutrients needed for your body to function, they have fiber to remove gunk, they have moisture and roughage to help you poop better, they’re bulky for the calories to keep you fuller longer and they have good energy because they’re not engineered in a creepy sterile lab.

If reading ingredients feels too daunting {which it’s really not, I promise!}, see these tips below —

  • remember that you only need to learn the ingredients of a certain product once! you determine if it’s in your arsenal or not and then you know for the future. so grocery shopping becomes easier and easier over time, because you know the brands you buy and don’t buy and only need to investigate ingredients on something new.
  • if you sincerely can’t or don’t care to read ingredients, then at least look for organic seals or the non gmo project verification seal {images below}. this way, at least you know the company cared enough to prove these standards to you, that the product has some integrity and proof of quality.
  • gmo = genetically modified ingredients {if you don’t know what that means, see here}. the main gmo crops are corn, soy, zucchini, yellow squash, canola, sugar beets, papaya and cottonseed oil — if a packaged food product is not organic and non gmo project verified then I would avoid anything with these ingredients, they are almost certain gmo and therefore not real food and therefore the effects of eating them are truly unknown at this point.
  • certain grocery stores do the work for you — if you want to leave the work to someone else, no prob! simply shop at your local health food store where they have vetted what’s on the shelves for you. look fore the smaller, least corporate businesses — they are in the business because they give a shit and care about health. just know that this isn’t always a guarantee {for example, whole foods stocks a lot of crappy, fake health foods on their shelves like the many brands owned by Coke and Pepsi}, but it’s a step in the right direction. I like to find a knowledgable sales person and ask them questions, usually they love to share their knowledge and point you to all the goodies. Thrive market is an amazing online example of this, buy anything they sell and know it’s trustworthy! plus their prices are really good.

Basically, a veggie burger is not a veggie burger is not a veggie burger…it depends on what it’s made of.

Read ingredients! It’s that simple.

Some amazing resources here:

Let me know of any Qs!





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