Nutrition

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Nutrition Labels 101: How to Evaluate Packaged Foods

Read the Ingredients ASAP

Read the Ingredients ASAP

As soon as you pick up your first item at the grocery store, read the ingredients. Try to opt for foods that contain a short list of recognizable names. “If you can’t pronounce it, try not to eat it,” says Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan. A long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients often means the item has been heavily processed, stripped of vitamins or nutrients and packed with artificial fillers, sugar and salt. When scanning the ingredients list, remember that the closer the item is to the top of the list, the more of it there is in your food. If you see high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup at the top of the list, you’re getting a heavy dose of sugar. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, means an added dose of salt. 

By Amanda Tust. Published April 29, 2013. Amanda is a Denver-based health, science and lifestyle writer.