Read the Fine Print!

I’m not talking about a legal document; I’m referring to food packaging. Anyone who’s reading this is clearly literate. But how well do most people apply reading skills to fundamental activities like grocery shopping? Taking a few moments to read the listed ingredients can lead to better, more healthful eating. In fact, the entire family can participate in reading and reap the health rewards.

In this situation, less is better. Usually, a shopper can determine that the fewer ingredients an item has the better the contents tend to be. In addition, the consumer should beware of products that contain unpronounceable ingredients. Finally, she should realize that the suffix –ose usually indicates some type of sugar: Lactose, glucose, fructose, and sucrose all are forms of sugar. 

Having become sensitized to the inclusion of the multitude of additives in processed foods, I recently spent a day walking down supermarket aisles doing some basic research.  I spent some time perusing ingredient labels of a wide variety of items. Considering the ever-increasing expansion of the American waist-line, and the incidence of diabetes in this society, I fully expected to see “sugar” among the first of ingredients in products like cereals, cakes, cookies, ice cream and yogurt—and I did. Indeed,  I was alarmed at the profusion of methods used to conceal that fact. Many companies have eschewed the word “sugar” for more esoteric or chemical designations, like “evaporated cane juice” (How does that differ from granulated sugar?) or “high fructose corn syrup.”  Unfortunately, sweeteners of all sorts also appear in foods that we wouldn’t suspect: I found it in most soy milk and salsa brands and even in pickles! Why?

I do not profess to be a scientist or nutritionist, but I am a reader.  If shoppers take a few extra moments at the supermarket to learn what they’re ingesting, they might very well alter their diets  and eat their way to better health. How’s THAT for a new year’s resolution?

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