Recently, I had dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant.  Usually I get a meal and don’t have room for the sopapilla that comes with it, but this time I took the sopapilla home to eat later. When I was ready to eat it, I was surprised to see

precessed foods_how to read food labels

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that the “honey” for the sopapilla was not honey at all. It was fake honey made with corn syrup. I happened to have some locally source honey at home and used that instead of the faux honey.

This is just one of the reasons it’s important to read labels. If you’re trying to change your life by eating fewer processed foods, less sugar, or any number of other nutritional adjustments, you must read the label to see what you’re actually eating. Here are three reasons to read the label on your food.

Detect hidden sugar.  If you read a label for almost any product that is processed, there is sugar added. You may notice that there are a number of names for sugar on a food label. Sucrose, dextrose, and fructose are all types of sugars. For a comprehensive list of sugar additives, visit Healthline.com.

Investigate a claim by the manufacturer.  Many foods have flashy labels proclaiming they are low fat, whole grain, low calorie or some other must-have feature. You can confirm all of this information by reading the ingredients and the nutrition label. Keep an eye out in the ingredients for hydrogenated oils, hidden sugars and additives that you might not want to eat. My rule is, anything I can’t pronounce, I shouldn’t eat. The nutrition label will tell you how many calories per serving and, more importantly, what constitutes a serving.

Research shows that adding health claims to front labels affects people’s choices. It makes them believe a product is healthier than other similar products. Manufacturers tend to use health claims that are misleading, and in some cases downright false.

The primary ingredient.  Food labels list the ingredients in descending order by the amount of the ingredient in the product. If sugar is the first, second or third ingredient, that product is LOADED with sugar. Ideally, you want the first three ingredients to be whole foods like whole grains (not refined), proteins or fruits and vegetables. Another good rule of thumb is looking at the number of ingredients. The more ingredients, the more processed the food usually is.

The best way to avoid all of this is to shop for and eat mostly whole foods. If you are going to eat packaged food, be smart about your choices. It’s important to sort out the higher quality products from junk as all packaged foods are not created equal.