By Katie Occhipinti
Growing up I was taught that peanut butter should have one ingredient … peanuts. Unfortunately, the majority of us are spreading partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and added sugar on our toast without even knowing it. If you have never read the ingredient list on your peanut butter or any other food product before buying it, then it is time you start becoming an ingredient list detective.
It is very easy for food companies to put signs, stickers and even green check marks on their products calling them a “healthy choice.” Just like we are trained to chuckle at infomercials that claim that the “Shake Weight” can make us look like fitness models, we need to develop the same skepticism to marketing ploys in the super market. Luckily for us, all we need to do is flip the box over and learn to get familiar with the list of ingredients that is printed below Nutritional Facts.
An easy way to rid your food cabinets of those hidden unhealthy snacks is to be pro-active and compare ingredient lists of different brands. One good rule is to pick the brand that contains the least amount of
ingredients, or simply look for the most ingredients that you can pronounce. Lastly (and my personal favorite), I ask myself, would my grandmother use this ingredient if she was cooking? Another thing to keep in mind is that ingredients are listed in order of abundance. For example, if sugar is the first or second ingredient listed in your cereal, maybe you should explore other options.
I consulted our own Jie Kang, a Nutrition and Metabolism professor at the College. Here is what he added on ingredients to avoid when making food choices:
“High fructose corn syrup, which is common in processed foods, has been linked to obesity and diabetes. I will also include sodium and monosodium glutamaterans (MSG) as part of ingredients to avoid. As you know, MSG adds flavor, but increases insulin secretion. In addition, I would watch for trans fatty acids, especially in packaged foods that contain baked goods.”