To make healthy meals, you have to shop for healthy food.

FULLfoods will teach you what ingredients and words to look for on labels so you'll be able to make healthy decisions on your own and not be fooled by marketing strategies. Making healthy food choices is all about understanding the ingredients listed on the label. Yes, calories, fat, sugars and sodium content are all important, but the most important aspect of choosing food is the ingredients.

The nine most important FULLfoods “Love Your Label” tips:

Tip #1: Look for items with ingredients that are familiar and from Mother Nature. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or it’s unfamiliar, you should probably put the item back on the shelf and move on. Most unpronounceable, unfamiliar ingredients contain additives, chemicals and preservatives.

Tip #2: How many ingredients does it contain? Stick to no more than seven. The best indicator of how processed something may be is the number of ingredients listed. Typically, the more ingredients used, the more processed the item is. Our general rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients the better. We try to choose foods with seven or less ingredients. If you are baffled between two products, typically the one with fewer ingredients is the better choice.

Tip #3: Look at the order of the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance. The first ingredient listed is used the most, the second ingredient is used less, and so on down the line of listed ingredients. Check out not only what ingredients are used but where on the list of ingredients they’re located.

Tip #4: Where is sugar or sweetener located on the list? If sugar or a sweetener is listed as one of the first three ingredients, put the item back.

Tip #5: Be aware of a label’s claim to healthy fame. We like to call it “The Label Illusion.” Companies love to use labels to catch your attention and entice you. Be aware… their intentions aren’t always pure. We’ve been programmed to identify with words such as organic, all natural, gluten-free, healthy, lean, low carb, low calorie, low-fat, fat-free, diet, light, reduced-fat, real and non-GMO. You’d be surprised how misleading these “comfort words” may be. Countless foods are labeled with these words but are still highly processed, making them not all that healthy. The truth in how “healthy” a food actually is can be found in the ingredients and how the food item was made, grown or raised. General rule… don’t grab a food item because of claims on the label. Look at the ingredients and decide for yourself!

Tip #6: Watch for those sneaky serving sizes. You may grab a beverage or snack and think the fat, calories or sugars seem low, but remember to check the serving size. If the serving size listed is only one ounce and you end up consuming three, you just tripled those numbers. Sometimes the numbers listed can be misleading due to unrealistic serving sizes. This is another way companies may market their products with impure intentions.

Tip #7: Focus more on the ingredients than the calories, fat and sugars. While there’s nothing wrong with reviewing a label’s fat grams, sugar content and calories, the ingredients listed and their order should be your main focus.

Tip #8: Be wary of packaged food items. Most packaged food items are mildly or highly processed. Watch what goes into those prepackaged foods. Again, check the ingredients!

Tip #9: All of the previously listed tips have one thing in common - ingredients are important!

General words to AVOID when choosing FULLfoods:

  • Refined
  • Enriched
  • Bleached
  • Imitation
  • Artificial flavors
  • Flavor additives
  • Artificial sweeteners
  •  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Ingredients that contain “ose” such as maltose, dextrose and sucrose (this is another way of masking sugars)
  • Maltodextrin (it’s in many highly processed foods)
  • Vegetable or hydrogenated oils
  • Trans fats
  • Processed
  • Additives
  • Added/artificial coloring or dyes: blue #1, blue #2, red #3, red #40
  • Added artificial preservatives such as sodium nitrates or nitrites
  • From concentrate
  • Substitutes and spreads
  • Avoid items with a list of unfamiliar ingredients.

Action Step

  1. Peruse the aisles of the grocery store and look at different labels. Take notice of ones that draw you in. What wording is used on these labels and what ingredients are included? Are the labels that use words to entice you as “good for you” as they portray?

Remember, when it comes to FULLfoods, always check the ingredients on the label to see if they are familiar and from Mother Nature.