Written by Sarah Buchanan, RD and Pamela Klassen, RD
It helps to know what to look for and also what to avoid. Here are some tips to help you use the ingredient list on packaged food.
1. Look for a short ingredient list
Ingredient lists with more than 5 ingredients are more likely to be ultra-processed. Try to find a similar product with about five ingredients or less. Here are some look for and avoid examples:
Ingredients: Tomatoes, sea salt, basil, extra virgin olive oil, dehydrated garlic
Canned Cheese Ravioli
Ingredients: water, tomato puree, enriched wheat flour, crackermeal, high fructose corn syrup, cheddar cheese, rice, romano cheese, dehydrated onion, salt, dehydrated garlic, spices
2. Avoid added sugars
If sugar, honey, syrup, sucrose, dextrose or fructose is one of the first ingredients listed, it means that added sugar is a main ingredient. Try to find a similar product without any of these words on the list.
Whole Grain Puff Cereal
Ingredients: Hard red wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, triticale, rye, buckwheat, sesame seeds)
Ingredients: Whole grain rolled oats, cane sugar, soy oil, brown rice flour, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, oat syrup solids (oat syrup solids, tocopherols), sea salt, molasses, cinnamon
3. Look for whole grains as the first ingredient
Whole wheat and multi-grain foods may not be whole grain. Whole wheat foods are not whole grain, but can still be a healthy choice as they contain fibre. When buying a grain product (bread, pasta), choose a product with whole grain (e.g., whole grain wheat flour, whole grain oats, etc.) as the first ingredient.
Ingredients: Whole grain wheat, vegetable oil, sea salt
Enriched Macaroni Pasta
Ingredients: Durum semolina, niacin ,ferrous sulfate (iron), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid