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I know a lot of people who want to move towards a healthier lifestyle and make more informed decisions while doing their groceries. However, its not that simple because of the many misleading statements and information at the front of the product cover. It is more important to look at the back of the cover and take a glance at the ingredient list. Here is a helpful guide you should keep into consideration while making your grocery purchases:


Stuff that should NOT be in your food:

Here is a list of stuff you should check in the list of ingredients while making a purchase and ensure you do not pick that product up.

1) High fructose corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a processed sweetener and food preservative made from cornstarch and is very unhealthy as it contains harmful chemicals and contaminants. It is added as a preservative in food products and is being linked to the rise of obesity in the US. Unfortunately, a lot of products contain this ingredient and you should keep a look out and get this ingredient out of your life. Products like – cereals, breads, sodas and baking materials, candies, pastries, cookies, crackers, dairy, ice creams, meats contain HCFS.

2) Soy Lecithin : This is again something that you will find in almost all food products. It is used as an emulsifier in foods. You need not avoid soy at all costs but you should try to keep it to a minimum. People who have soy allergies should completely avoid foods containing soy lecithin. This additive is supposed to be unhealthy due to it being a GMO Product (Genetically modified organisms). So the best thing to do is to purchase a product which contains organic soy lecithin.

3) Aspartame : Aspartame comes under the food additive category of ‘artificial sweeteners’. There has been so much controversy over the ill effects of Aspartame and its difficult to make up your mind on what to beleive. Aspartame has been notoriously known for having to cause tumors, migraines, cancer etc. I would personally prefer to stay away from this ingredient (after all, there’s no smoke without fire). Products like colas, diet sodas, yogurt, chewing gum and drink powders contain aspartame.

4) Carrageenan – This is most commonly used in food as a thickener and a stabiliser. You would find this in non dairy milks such as coconut milk and almond milk. Research is still on about the harmful effects of Carrageenan and this additive is one of the most talked about because of its ‘controversial’ health effects. I buy Silk unsweetened original almond milk which does not contain carrageenan (although it does contain other additives). Do make sure you check the list of ingredients when you purchase almond milk. Most of the people make a switch from dairy milk to almond milk for its beneficial health effects and the proclaimed harmful effects of dairy milk. In such case, I would recommend you to consume raw (grass fed) cows milk. (The modern methods of dairy processing is what is worrying. The industry uses growth hormones which is genetically engineered and is injected into cows to increase milk production.)

5) MSGs – Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. MSG has been used as a food additive for decades and a lot of people have shown to have side effects to MSGs such as headaches, nausea and chest pain.

5) GMO’s – I am a fanatic of organic produce and honestly stay away from anything that is genetically modified. GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe and more than 60 countries around the world have put significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. Unfortunately, some countries like US have still not taken this step and few health conscious Americans are working towards requesting mandatory labeling of GMO items so that the people are at least aware of what they are buying. 

I will be writing an elaborate article on organic foods vs conventionally grown foods and genetically modified foods. For the time being, the information below should be helpful in making some mindful choices at the store.

Haven’t we all seen tiny stickers on our fruits and veggies at the store? Well they aren’t mere product codes but do have a meaningful purpose for the consumers as well.Take a look below:

Conventionally Grown 

4-digit code – E.g. Conventionally grown Orange: 4023

Organically Grown

5-digits starting with #9 – E.g. Organically grown Orange: 94023

Genetically Modified

5-digits starting with #8 E.g. GMO Orange: 84023

These are broadly the list of ingredients you should stay away from, but what is more important is not getting fooled by unnecessary and meaningless labeling on the front cover of the products by companies. These include the following:

1) All natural flavors : I really do not understand what this label still really means? Well, for starters natural flavors can contain genetically modified organisms, pesticides, chemicals. Yes, thats true! In fact , MSG and Aspartame are considered natural flavors. Do not fall for this misleading word.

2) Gluten free : A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten and a diet that is free of grains with gluten like wheat, barley, rye). Usually people with gluten allergies go in for such a diet. However please be assured that gluten free does not mean GMO free (unless otherwise specified) or unprocessed. So please be mindful.

3) Multi-grain – A lot of us feel pleased purchasing bread or cereal that says multi-grain. Multi grain means contains multiple grains like wheat, barley, rye, corn etc. But this does not mean that the grains are whole. This means that these are refined multi-grains. Always look for the word ‘whole’ when making a purchase of breads, cereals, crackers etc.

4) Sugar free – Sugar free does not mean that you are making a healthier choice when purchasing this product. These products use artificial sweeteners that can do more harm than good. You would rather purchase ‘relatively’ healthier forms of sugar such as coconut sugar, stevia, brown sugar.

5) Fat free –  For a product to be fat free, it must contain less than 0.5g of fat per serving. However, what some fat-free products lack in fat, they make up for in sugars. Fat free doesn’t mean calorie free. It is just a healthier form to consume than having full fat products. But if weight loss is your mission, then having fat free products will help only if you control your portions. 

5) Organic – Yes! this word can sometimes be used to fool you into buying inherently unhealthy foods like chips, crackers, tortillas etc. Just because a product says ‘organic chips’ it does not mean this product becomes healthy for you. It is still a fried potato product which has used all organic ingredients.

I hope this article will be of help to all my readers in making some mindful healthier choices!

Stay healthy!