Some tips on avoiding highly processed foods

Hopefully by now, especially if you have been paying attention to this blog, you are reading food labels before buying anything from the grocery store. And as a reminder, the section

blog post photoof the label that you should be reading is the “ingredients” …I am not talking about the nutrition facts! One of my favorite guidelines or “food rules” from Michael Pollan is to “avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.” How easy is that? Well, it is pretty easy although there are a few exceptions to consider.

For starters, a long list of ingredients for a recipe you are making does not apply to this rule. Also, some foods that are technically considered “junk food” or “treats” like potato chips (potatoes, oil, salt) and even ice cream (milk, cream, sugar, vanilla) may only have 3 or 4 ingredients.  But that doesn’t mean you have the green light to chow down. Even though some foods like chips and ice cream may not be highly processed, they should still be considered a treat for a special occasion…and that most certainly does not mean eating them every day!

Another point to consider is that the ingredient list shouldn’t contain anything that is “unfamiliar [or] unpronounceable.” You basically want to eat items made with things that any normal person would keep in their pantry. Do you know anyone that cooks with xantham gum or maltodextrin? I don’t think so. And even though you can pronounce high-fructose corn syrup and you can buy an ingredient called “corn syrup” you definitely want to try to avoid foods containing that ingredient as well.

I hope this somewhat simple guideline makes things easier on your future food-shopping trips. Although I do have to say, I think the easiest guideline to follow is buying as many foods as you can that don’t even have a label at all.