Reading labels is tough. The easiest way to avoid potentially harmful ingredients in packaged food is to stick with items that have identifiable, real food as ingredients. But that’s not always possible so we did a little research and learned a few of the worst offenders. We do our best to avoid these when we buy packaged food.
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
Artificial Colors/Dyes: (i.e. red #, yellow #, blue #, etc.)
Found in just about anything and everything. Linked to a wide range of issues such as hyperactivity, tumors, organ damage, cancer, and more.
Artificial Sweeteners: (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K)
Found in anything from candy to soft drinks to yogurt to anything labeled “diet”. Linked to cancer, neurological damage, and more.
BHA: (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
Found in anything from chewing gum to cereal to potato chips. Linked to cancer.
GMOs: (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Found in most processed foods (anything containing ingredients such as corn, corn syrup, canola oil, soy, etc. ). Linked to allergies and organ damage. These can be avoided by buying “organic” processed food. See our Organic Food page to learn more.
High Fructose Corn Syrup:
Found in anything from canned vegetables to condiments (like ketchup). Linked to tissue damage and diabetes.
Monosodium Glutamate: (MSG)
Found in anything from soups to salad dressings, chips, and restaurant food. Linked to depression, obesity, and cell damage. (Note, a product with “natural flavoring” may contain MSG.)
Found in processed meat (hot dogs, bacon, lunch meat, etc.). Linked to cancer.
Trans Fat: (hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated)
Found in margarine, shortening, fried food (fast food), and many other processed foods. Linked to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.
If you want to be an expert label reader or you just want to read more about these and other food additives, check out this comprehensive list of food additives created by the Center of Science in the Public Interest. Look all the way at the bottom of the page too. There is a list of “Banned Additives” – so creepy! Now before you freak out – there are some packaged foods that don’t use these additives. Here is a list of brands we buy. Please check the label on these products. It’s possible the ingredients have changed or not all of the products by the brand are free of all the creepy stuff.
HEALTHIER PACKAGED FOOD BRANDS
Baked Goods and Snacks
Van’s Natural Foods (waffles, pancakes, english muffins, etc.)
Pillsbury Simply (bread, biscuits, cookies)
Annie’s Organic (snacks, cereal, etc.)
Cascadian Farm Organic (cereal, granola bars, and more)
Condiments, Sauces, and Spices
Simply Organic (Seasonings, spices, mixes, etc.)
Bragg Organic (Salad dressings, vinegar, EVOO, etc.)
Canned* Veggies, Beans, and More
Muir Glen Tomato Products (tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce, salsa, etc.)
Libby’s Organic (canned corn, beans, etc.)
Eden Organic (canned beans and more)
Kerrygold (butter and cheese)
Most of the brands listed above can be found at conventional grocery stores and on Amazon. Also, many store brands are now offering natural and organic packaged foods so make sure to check those out as well. And, if you are lucky enough to have a Whole Foods Market nearby, you don’t even have to worry about most of the “creepy” ingredients. Check out WFM’s list of unacceptable ingredients. You won’t find these ingredients in the products they sell!
*One more item to be aware of. Some cans are lined with BPA. Click here to read more.