Image Map

31 Days Challenge- Day 5: Read Labels

04 January 2012

One way to improve your children's diet is to pay more attention to food labels.

Due to issues with food allergies/ sensitivity issues, I'm a fairly avid label reader.  And yet, there are still times when I'm surprised. Sometimes I make assumptions about something that I've always bought, or I buy something in haste.

Several years ago, I had a major issue with hives. I had huge hives all over my body, all the time.   When I was talking to a natural health practitioner, one of the things he said was to "Cut out all corn syrup." I responded, "I don't really eat anything with corn syrup," to which he said, "How about ketchup?"

Hmm... I'd never thought about it- It turns out that regular ketchup is almost entirely high fructose corn syrup. (I now buy Simply Heinz, Heinz Organic, or Trader Joes which use sugar instead.)

Since that time, I've had multiple label reading "surprises."  I was looking at the label for Worcestershire sauce to see if it had soy in it and was similarly surprised to discover that, at least the kind I had purchased, was also almost entirely corn syrup.

Although we have now cut out cereal in the morning, for a long time, my kids ate cereal almost every morning. I prided myself on the fact that I didn't buy "sugar cereal," only to discover that Lucky Charms had less sugar than some of the cereals I had been buying!

Last week I was at my mom's house. She asked my father to buy beef broth. He bought two different organic broths because he wasn't sure which kind she wanted. My mom usually bought Swanson, but since he bought two different kinds, she looked at the labels and the differences were shocking. There were nearly twice as many ingredients in the Swanson broth, never a good sign. It had added sugar, and there were many ingredients of the "non-pronounceable" variety. The store brand had beef, water, spices and vegetables- that's it. Needless to say, the Swanson broth was sent back to the store!

I once bough my store's organic "store brand," beef broth. I made one of my favorites recipes for Sausage Minestrone but for some reason that night it tasted awful. I looked at the broth and discovered that it wasn't beef broth at all. It was "beef flavored," broth and despite the "organic" label, I didn't even recognize what was in it (but there certainly wasn't any beef!)

So, here's your challenge.

Pick several items from your pantry or fridge and take a good look at the labels.  Ignore what they tell you, such as "low fat," "low sodium," "whole grain," etc.  Instead, look first at the ingredient list. Are there a LOT of ingredients? Can you recognize everything listed? Does it list mostly "real food," or are there a lot of additives/ ingredients that you can't define?  Is there anything that surprises you? Are there ingredients that you'd like to know more about?

For example, I used to buy Polaner All-Fruit jelly. However, now it's "All Fruit, Plus Fiber." They add fiber by adding maltodextrin. I've done a little research on maltodextrin and can't really speak yet to it's health benefits or potential detriments, but because it's a manufactured and not a "real," food, I've decided to ditch Polaner and buy Smuckers all-fruit instead- since it really is "all fruit."

What you do or do not want to consume or feed to your kids is up to you, and is likely to change over time. Due to my gestational diabetes, I am paying way more attention to the carbohydrates, fiber, and protein numbers than I ever had (I always paid way more attention to ingredients than "numbers.")

We all have to make our own decisions, but the point is that the more informed we are, the better choices we will make, and the better eaters our kids will be.  If we read labels (and not just the parts the manufacturer wants us to) we are empowered, informed and aware.

So, did you find any surprises? Maybe you even found some good discoveries... Please share in the comments!


  1. the more informed we are, the better choices we will make, and the better eaters our kids will be

    ^This is wholly what I believe and I try to tell people this same mantra when they think I'm being too picky about what I feed my children.
    I'll get back about the labels.

  2. Tks for this great article. I try to read the labels whenever I buy something new. It's always good to know what we are consuming. I was shocked to find most Asian condiment contains MSG, took me sometime to find those w/o.

  3. Amanda- I think that sometimes it makes people feel like they are a bad mom if another mom makes different choices about what to feed their children. I know that, even for me, I read about choices that other people make and I"ll think, "Well, I"m not going to go THAT far..." but then sometimes months, sometimes years later, I find myself ready to make that change.... sometimes I'm not ready for a certain change or it doesn't feel important enough for me yet. That's why I'm trying, with my site to help people see that they don't have to "keep up," with anyone else's version of "healthy," but, if they are informed, they can begin to define healthy for their own family and make choices based on that. Again, I'm happy to have found a kindred spirit :)

  4. Bentomonsters- I always thought MSG was something that was only in Chinese takeout. I'm not exactly sure when I learned it, but was shocked when I found out that MSG stood for monosodium glutamate and then I started reading labels only to find out it was in all sorts of things that I wouldn't have thought... ugh :( Did you find a particular brand that doesn't have MSG? I don't often buy Asian condiments since my daughter is allergic to soy, but still, I'm curious...

  5. It's hard to believe people will put almost anything in their bodies if it tastes good. All they've done is ruined their palates for good food. It is a hard habit to break, but this is the best advice anyone can give for eating healthier.

    Here is my link for Day 5:

    (This has been a lot of fun for me. Thank you for this challenge, Julie.)

  6. It is amazing what you will find when you read a label. My weight has dropped because I now read the label. I see high fructose corn syrup it is immediately put down. That "stuff" packs on the pounds. Thanks!

  7. Lynda- I'm so glad that you're enjoying the challenge. I certainly enjoy reading your daily posts about how the challenges are playing out for you! I like your comment about ruining your palates for good food. Until I started eating differently, I never realized that your tastes could actually change. There are many unhealthy foods that I used to think tasted good that now taste awful to me...

  8. domesticallyseasoned... that's so cool that you lost weight by reading labels! The HFCS drives me crazy- I'd say that my biggest pet peave in that area is bread. Sometimes even with the same brand, one type has it in and another doesn't. Bread is so expensive lately that I'm always trying to get the best deal on the healthiest bread possible, but that means that it takes me forever to read labels every week!

  9. Hi Julie! Thanks so much for the sweet comment on my daughter's room :) As far as blog design, I'm learning, & yes, I did it myself! I love a clean, simple, & bright design, myself :) Would love to somehow help you if you like!!! I have a huge list of things I would like to provide on my blog--- design tips & services one of them--- I have a few premade blog logos in my etsy shop but much more to add. Anyhoo- feel free to message if there's a way I can help!

  10. Thanks Lauren... I am looking at switching to Word Press... do you do design for both WP and Blogger? I'll be in touch!

  11. One of my goals for this year is eliminating any high fructose corn syrup products in our diet. I just discovered it in Ketchup this week too and was mortified! It is crazy what an eye opener it is when you start paying attention to the labels.


Please add your questions, comments, and suggestions so that we can all learn from each other!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...