Nutritionist Corner: Reading Ingredient Lists


It’s difficult to know what to prioritize when looking at a food label. Between the fine print of the ingredient list, and the mess of the Nutrition Facts chart it can be hard to know what words or numbers to scan for on a label. Not to mention the changing trends of health gimmicks that aim to catch our eye on the front of the package. However, one truth does remain, the nuts and bolts about what is in packaged food still lingers in the ingredient list.

Here are two things to look for when reading the ingredient list:

  1. The length of the ingredient list. I know this is an elusive recommendation, because how long is too long when it comes to ingredients? If the list is longer than around 5 ingredients, scan more closely to see what’s in the food you are holding. Leading you to recommendation #2.
  2. Watch for certain words in the ingredient list. Try to limit or avoid foods with the words “modified”, “enriched”, “color” and “soy lecithin”. These words typically imply that the food is genetically engineered and contains GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).

One of the best labels to look for on the front of a package is the USDA Certified Organic label. This is one way to ensure you’re consuming food that is not genetically modified, and contains limited or no extra processing.


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