Do You Know What is In Your Food? Part 2 of 6
Parts 2 – 6 will walk through all the different sections within the grocery store and give recommendations of what ingredients to be aware of that are specific to each food section of the store covered of packaged food products.
These articles are to help you become more versed on how to read food labels and ingredient lists so that you can select the type of product that best fits your needs. Nutrition tips will be provided and names of some recommended food brands.
This is not to say other brands are not sufficient, yet for those people that have sensitive GI tracts, food allergies, and other health concerns, these brands may be more of what they need.
Part 2 – Starches: Breads, Tortillas/Chips, Pasta/Rice, Cereals and Snacks
A threshold issue on starches is the use of oils in these products. The FDA does not regulate oils, therefore it is important to buy products that use heart healthy, monosaturated fat oils that are high in Omega 6.
These oils should be organic (free of harmful pesticides, etc.) and should be expeller pressed and refined. This means that they are not highly processed, which makes them healthier (this includes “cold pressed” and “extra virgin” oils).
Examples of heart healthy oils are: olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil
Recommended brands: Primal Kitchen (avocado oil), Marianne’s and Chosen brands for olive oil, and California grown olive oil
If you must buy other oils such as canola, corn oil, safflower, sunflower, soybean or palm oil, look for the expeller pressed versions.
Nutritionwise, read the nutrition label to see what the bread offers per slice. It is best to select breads that have no more than 2 grams of sugar per serving (one slice) and no less than 2 grams of protein or fiber. Ingredients are listed from most prominent to least.
To get sufficient fiber from your bread, select bread that has “whole wheat” listed as the first ingredient. This means that the wheat has the bran, germ and endosperm intact. This provides you with more fiber, which is very important for healthy digestion. If it’s labeled as “wheat flour” or “enriched bleached flour” (or similar), that tells you that white flour was mostly used, not “whole-wheat flour.”
Just because the name of the bread on the package sounds super-healthy, it doesn’t mean the bread actually is. Oroweat’s seven-grain and 12-grain breads, for example, list “unbleached enriched flour” as their first ingredient.
Here are some ingredients to avoid:
Bleached or unbleached flour (bleach additives and minimal fiber content)
Cracked wheat (same as unbleached flour)
Soybean oil (GMO)
Monoglycerides (a chemical dough conditioner to make bread quicker)
As always, be aware of the artificial additives and sweeteners, food colorings and organic versus non-organic labels previously mentioned in Part 1.
Recommended brands: Silver Hills, Kiplingers, Dave’s Killer Bread, Alvarado Street
Recommended Gluten Free Brands: Food For Life, Canyon Bakehouse, Rudi’s, Udi’s, Ezekial
When buying gluten free products, beware that the following ingredients have minimal nutritive value: potato starch, corn, tapioca starch, rice flour, cane sugar.
Be aware of oils that are not considered healthy (as mentioned above) as well as GMO corn. You want non-GMO, organic and expeller pressed oils.
Recommended brands: Siete, Annie’s, Barbara Puffins, Good Health
For gluten free tortillas, watch the ingredients carefully. Corn tortillas are gluten free but often are made with vegetable shortening, enriched bleach flour, and sucralose (artificial sweetener). The Siete brand makes some excellent gluten free tortillas such as almond, cassava, and chickpea flavors.
The most nutritious pasta and rice choices have whole grains listed as the first ingredient. Enriched flours mean that the vitamins were initially taken out and then later added back (fortified) with synthetic vitamins to the product.
Some gluten free pasta options would be red or green lentil pasta or chickpea pasta.
Recommended Gluten Free Brands: Banza, Pow, and Tolerant.
Brown rice will have more fiber, vitamins and minerals than white rice because it has more bran in the rice. Jasmine or Basmati rice are types of high quality white rice.
When reading the food label for cereals here are a few nutritious guidelines to go by per serving:
- Less than 9 grams of sugar per serving (4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp of sugar)
- A minimum of 3 grams of fiber
- A minimum of 3 grams of protein
As always, be aware of the artificial additives and sweeteners, food colorings and organic versus non-organic labels previously mentioned in Part 1. To add your own sweetener, you can use honey, real fruit, stevia or monk fruit if you choose.
Recommended brands: Grape Nuts, Barbara’s Puffins, Alpen, Muesli, Ezekiel, Kashi, Arrowhead Mills Organic Spelt. Cheerios has corn starch but better than most sweetened cereals.
Recommended Gluten Free Brands: Love Grown, Arrowhead Mills: Maple Buckwheat; Oatmeal (Steel Cut Oats have more fiber and take longer to cook versus rolled oats that are more portable and require less cooking time).
In addition to snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables, there are many packaged snacks to choose from these days. Since chips were previously covered, crackers, fruit snacks, and ice cream will be discussed now with chocolates and granola/protein bars to be covered in Part 5.
Once again, especially when it comes to snacks, be aware of the artificial additives and sweeteners, food coloring and organic versus non-organic labels previously mentioned in Part 1.
Cracker recommended brands: Flacker’s, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Blue Diamond Artisan Crackers (gluten/wheat free).
Fruit Snack recommended brands: YoYo’s, Wild Made (no added sugars for both)
Ice Cream recommended brands: Haagen Daz, Rebel, and So Delicious (dairy free/sugar free). Be aware in ice cream that high fructose corn syrup and maltitol are frequently used.
Next: Part 3: Dairy and Non-Dairy Alternatives
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!