Reading Food Labels {The Healthy Eating Made Simple Series}

Once you’re convinced that you need to care for your body by eating healthy foods and you have the motivation to take those grace-full baby steps, it’s time to start making changes! One of the most helpful things I’ve found that keeps me eating real food and not processed ones is learning to read food labels. You may be surprised why reading those labels is important, though!

Reading Food Labels, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple series at

Why Read Food Labels

I used to think that reading food labels was important so that I could get the nutrition facts. I needed to check those calories, be mindful of the vitamins, minerals, and proteins that the food provided, and above all else, check those fat grams.

That was back in my low-calorie, low-fat days. Fear not, friends. I am a reformed woman.

I completely ignore the nutrition panel these days. The percentages are based on what one government agency decides I should get, and they are far from infallible. We happen to disagree a bit, too. Fat is good, but more on that in this post.

The reason I read food labels, and why you should start, too, is to understand what is in my food. Under the nutrition label in itty bitty writing is a very important list that I like to pay attention to: the ingredients list. 

When I read this list, I’m looking for ingredients that are simple, straightforward, and pronounceable. Companies are really good at plastering claims on packages to make us think that their food is good for us, but the ingredients list tells the whole story.

Reading Food Labels, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple series at

Not simple, straightforward, nor pronounceable

Food Ingredients to Avoid

Truthfully, this list could be really long, but this series is about keeping it simple. By making strides toward abandoning foods with these ingredients, you’ll start making some really important steps in your real food journey.

  • Hydrogenated Oils, Partially-Hydrogenated Oils, and Shortening: These are artificial trans fats that are extremely destructive to our bodies. They are used because they are cheap and shelf stable, but one look at the manufacturing process will shed some serious light on to why they should be avoided.
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup: This ingredient is another highly processed one to avoid. While all sugar needs to be limited, I find HFCS more disagreeable because it also goes through an extensive manufacturing process, is very unnatural to our bodies, and is probably made from GMO corn.
  • Artificial color, flavors, and preservatives: The term artificial should let you know right away that it isn’t real food. These are laboratory chemicals being put into our food. How can that be good for us?

Reading Food Labels, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple Series at

Simple, straightforwards, and pronounceable

The picture above is from some pasta sauce that I like to use. I chose it because of the real food ingredients. No funny business going on here! And quite the difference between the packaged blueberry cupcake label up above, eh?

Starting to Read Food Labels

I will fully admit that reading the ingredients list on the packaged foods we buy takes time. However, it really is one of the best steps you can take!

Start in your own kitchen. Look over the foods you have in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. You don’t have to sit down and do it all at once, though you could easily do it within a short period of time. Become aware of the ingredients that are in the foods you buy, and make mental notes (or write it down) on which ones need to be replaced.

You may decide to pitch the really bad stuff now, or you could choose to finish it up and replace it with something better when you hit the store next.

When you’re at the store, before putting an item in your cart, flip it over and scan the ingredients. I sometimes compare five or more brands to find the one that meets our needs. Once you learn those brands, you’re shopping will take less time.

Are you familiar with reading food labels? Is it something you have a habit or doing, or is it new to you? Do you think this is a simple step you could take?

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    1. Kristen, thankyou for informing me on everything! I feel like this is a lot of work :/ overwhelmed but determined because my family is worth it. The kids and my mother all have their “must have ” brands. If i shop at typical store such as Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, smart& finals etc. this will take forever and i will end up getting the same ole same ole..but if i shop at an organic store then they can be pricey…what stores should i shop at?

      1. Hi Alazia!

        I really think that you can get good, whole foods at almost any store. We actually rarely shop at an organic health food store because the price is beyond our budget! We do most of our grocery shopping at a local discount chain, some local farm markets, and sometimes a major supermarket if needed. Since we don’t eat a lot of prepared or packaged foods, I don’t have to worry about brands as much. We get organic when we can find it, but I’d rather have convention apples than a bag of potato chips!

        Online shopping can also be a great option! On my sidebar I have a banner for Vitacost & Amazon, and that’s where I get a lot of things that I just can’t find locally.

        It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed at first! Don’t change too much at once. Focus on baby steps! This post also shares what I’d do if I was starting today.

        Is that helpful?

    2. Kristen…I, too, am a label reader. I started reading labels about ten years ago when we decided to look into organic foods as a choice. It is amazing what you learn reading food labels. Great post.

      1. Thank you, Naomi! Sometimes I laugh to myself when I pick up an unfamiliar food item an automatically flip it over, but I do think it is one of the best “healthy” habits to have.

    3. I have been reading labels since 6th grade (1972), when my backpacking partner was vegetarian and avoiding meats and BHA and BHT. I noticed a few years back that Carnation Nestle cocoa mix had fewer carbs! Hmmm… How did they do that? Replace some of the sugar with Sucralose. You would also find it interesting to see which sodas have caffeine! Sunkist orange soda! We don’t drink soda much, only special occasions.

      Yep! Reading labels can be an eye opener!

      Thank you for sharing!

      1. Isn’t amazing what you find when you read the ingredients label? You’ve got tons of label reading experience. That’s fantastic!