Over the weekend I was Costco. And while I typically stick to the fresh fruits and veggies, free-range eggs, and natural cut (preferably organic or grass-fed) meats, I occasionally do buy food in packages. But only after MUCH SCRUTINY.

When I consider buying something, I don’t look at the price first, I look at the ingredients list. The first wealth is health, right? (Ralph Waldo Emerson). So I pick up the product, and flip is over scanning for the ingredients list.  Why read all the hype and marketing speak that food manufacturers put on their packages if its not reflected in the actual product?!

Beware: Sugar

Having found the ingredients list, I read. If any form of sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, or any fake sugar, is listed in the first 2-4 ingredients, 9 times out of 10, I put the product back immediately. I mean, really, why do we need added sugar? That usually just means the food is lacking in real flavor and real nutritional value. Plus, less sugar is good for blood glucose, weight control, and looking younger. My rare exception is when I know I’m going for a sweet treat and its a special occasion and even then I choose more ‘natural’ sweeteners, like raw honey.

Beware: Additives

Once I’m convinced added sugars don’t make up the bulk of the calories, I scan through the rest of the ingredients. If there are more than 5-6 total ingredients, I begin to get wary and read them more closely.  What is this, some kind of manufactured ‘food’?  And if I can’t pronounce 2/3rds of the ingredients or they sound like something from a college chemistry lab, big red flag.  Do you want to eat franken foods? Not me.

See this post on all kinds of food additives, preservatives, colorings, and emulsifiers to decode and understand everything in food.

Take sliced meats as an example. Deli meats (turkey breast, pastrami, sliced roast beef) usually have flavorings, colorings, 1-2 types of salts, 1-2 types of preservatives, and sometimes even some sugar in them! Compare this to the Prosciutto, imported from Italy (also available at Costco)–Ingredients: Pork, Salt. I can handle that!  Why can’t food producers in the US think that simply?!?

Unbelievable! Look at these ingredients!

Look at the image at the top, why does a hot sauce need sugar as its 4th ingredient? And why does it need more than15 ingredients including Yellow #5 & #6? Cheese has 8 ingredients! How many French cheese makers have 8 ingredients, including potato starch and dextrose in their cheese?

Really!  I mean, no wonder we’re a country of inordinate health problems and rising health care costs! Just check what’s in your food. And vote with your wallet for natural, real ingredients, not something that came out of test tube.