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What’s In a Label?

Food labels have been increasingly confusing to decipher. Marketing companies focus their messaging on how to get people to buy their product, yet these messages can be deceiving when it comes to the contents of the product and the nutritional value of the ingredients. nutrition label

Nutritional health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, sugars, sodium and cholesterol as low as possible to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet. However, marketing labels are often misleading when it comes to what you are buying.

Reading ingredient labels can really help you understand what you are consuming. For example, you may think 100% whole wheat bread or flavored Greek yogurts are healthy choices. However, the food label may reveal it contains additives including high fructose corn syrup, guar gum, colored dyes or artificial sweeteners including aspartame, sucralose/sucrose or Splenda. And the yogurt often may have up to 24 grams of sugar, per serving.

A product’s ingredients are listed in descending order of weight (from the most to the least). Typically, the less ingredients in a product, the less manufactured it is, which means the healthier it is to eat. Ingredients that are processed or manufactured are often difficult for our bodies to digest and use as fuel, or burn off as energy.

Recommendation on what to try to avoid when possible:

  • High fructose corn syrup – a highly refined sweetener made from genetically modified corn
  • Artificial sweeteners (acesulfame-K, aspertame, Equal, NutraSweet, Saccharin, Sweet’n Low, Sucralose, Splenda & Sorbitol) – they are chemically derived
  • Hydrogenated oils (trans fat) – actually illegal in some countries
  • “Enriched” and “bleached flour” (ie. “enriched” whole wheat flour has removed all of the nutrients and your body will have difficulty processing food with this ingredient. Carbs and empty calories are what remain- 100% whole wheat flour is the best option – or sprouted bread)
  • Foods with 10 ingredients or more – typically, the more ingredients, the more a food is artificially manufactured
  • Artificial colorings/flavorings  – found in everything from soda to snack cakes, they are chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color and flavor
  • Saturated fats – leading cause of high cholesterol
  • High sugars – refined white sugar has no nutrients and can cause premature aging, digestive problems and obesity
  • High sodium – can lead to high blood pressure and excessive bloating
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) – an artificial flavor enhancer added to many foods
  • Sodium nitrate – chemicals used to preserve meat
  • BPA – a hormone mimicking chemical found in nearly all food packaging plastics – known to be harmful to your health
  • GMOs (explained below)

Whenever you purchase a food item, remember to look at the Nutrition Facts label to understand the serving size and nutrients in a product and the ingredient label to avoid foods that are manufactured and may be hazardous to your health.

A general rule is to keep your daily intake of fat to less than 65 grams, saturated fat to less than 20 grams, cholesterol to less than 300 mg, sodium to less than 2400 mg, total carbohydrate to 300g and dietary fiber to 25 g (these are maximum measurements). Also, take a look at the serving size – it’s often misleading how many servings are in a package. For example, a Snapple bottle actually contains 2 servings – so you have to double the food label contents and calories.

AND what is all the hype about GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. The genetic material of food organisms have been altered using genetic engineering techniques, creating unstable genes that do not naturally occur.

In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. Most of which, are unlabeled in America.

Why GMOs are deemed bad for your body & environment:

  • The health consequences of GMOs are unknown and potentially dangerous.
  • GMOs have been rendered toxic when ingested (studies still pending).
  • GMOs require massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides (poisons). But companies produce them, as they are focused on mass production and revenue.
  • Our bodies do not know how to digest GMOs.

Genetically modified organisms have not been proven to be safe in any way, and most of the studies are actually leaning in the other direction, which is why many of the world’s countries have banned these items.

The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic.

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Trader Joe’s Shopping List

I am a loyal shopper of Trader Joe’s. I discovered this find a couple of years ago and have never turned back. They have great, healthy selections with very reasonable prices. Although, like every supermarket, not everything they sell is “healthy”. You still have to read packages and ingredients.

I have often been asked what I buy at TJ’s, so I made a shopping list. I am not suggesting everything on this list is the perfect balance of nutrition, but most on the list are excellent choices. I have spent the time reading the packages and narrowing down selections. Here’s what’s on my list:


Stone Hearth Honey Whole Wheat (always look for 100% whole wheat, with a small ingredient list)

Quinoa Bread

Whole Wheat English Muffins

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Organic Shells and White Cheddar Mac & Cheese (for the kids)

Mini Whole Wheat Bagels (for the kids)


Whole Wheat Pasta

Organic Brown Rice (in freezer section)


Raisin Rosemary Crisps

Multigrain Flax Water Crackers

Edamame Savory Thins Crackers

Woven Wheat & Wafers


McCann’s Irish Oatmeal

Uncle Sam’s

Nature’s Flax Plus Organic

Joe’s O’s

Heart to Heart

Organic Golden Flaxseed

Sauces / Condiments/ Dips

Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole (my addiction – half the calories of normal guac – it’s made with Greek yogurt!)

Hummus (without Tahini)

Trader Giotto’s Rustico Traditional Southern Italian Sauce

Balsamic Glaze (I use on mozzarella & tomato sandwiches, as salad dressing, as a dip…)

Organic Reduced Sugar Strawberry Preserves

Organic Ketchup

Pure Grade A Maple Syrup



Individual Goat Cheese Packets

Lite Cheese Sticks

Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter (drain the oil from the top before eating!) – this only has organic peanuts & sea salt…nothin’ else

Protein Muffins w/Banana (a little bit of a decadent treat, but still in the “good” category)

Trader Joe’s Vanilla Whey Protein (filled with vitamins!)

Organic Milk


Packaged Lentils

Goat Cheese Cream Cheese Spread (great tasting and none of the artificial ingredients and “guar gum” of regular cream cheese)

Trader Joe’s Shredded Mozzarella

Trader Joe’s Greek Blueberry Yogurt Non-Fat

Organic Kidney Beans

Low Sodium Almonds or Pistachios

Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water

Crumbled Feta

Shaved Grana Padanoi Parmesan Cheese

Ground Lean Beef – 96% Fat Free

Ground Turkey Breast – 99% Fat Free

Snacks (suggest eating these snacks in moderation vs. sitting down with a bag, but a serving is perfectly fine)

Trader Joe’s Inner Peas

Soy & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

Whole Grain Pretzel Sticks

Pretzel Slims

Trader Joe’s Crunchy Granola Bars (peanut butter or regular)

Kind Bars


Organic Raw Broccoli

Organic Celery

Organic Carrot Sticks

Sugar Snap Peas

Mirepoix Celery, Carrots and Onions (pre-cut) – great for stews, sauce, tuna)



Organic Bananas


Sweet Onion



Applesauce (used in baking)

Vegetables/Fruit (in the frozen aisle)


Organic Spinach

Organic Broccoli

Organic Sweet Peas

Ready to Eat Edamame (lightly salted)

Organic Frozen Fruit


Raspberry Sparking Seltzer

Whole Wheat Flour

Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Dark Chocolate Edamame (gotta have a little treat –  this is packed with protein!)

  • Deborah

    As a person who really does not like to think about cooking or shopping lists, I am SOOO in love with this list! Thank you !!!!!!!

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And so we begin.

A blog is a blog is a blog.

Well, not all blogs are created equal. This blog is meant to make you think, to create conversation and to educate on the latest health and nutrition news. And to have fun with the knowledge you will gain. It’s empowering to know you can control your body… And your mind.

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