Food trends and powerful marketing machines can seriously influence what we consider healthy. For instance, in the 1990s, the “low fat” craze was in full swing with families buying boxes of processed foods loaded with sodium and chemicals thinking it would be better for them. Today, it can be even harder to sift through the labels with words like “natural”, “grain-free” and “made with real ingredients” plastered on the boxes with virtually no regulation of these terms. When you’re shopping for foods that will fuel your body properly, here are some things that should be red flags.

Multiple Adjectives Explaining Health Benefits

The more someone needs to sell something using health-trend keywords, the less likely it is that it is actually healthy. When you’re shopping and you see an overload of trendy keywords like “low carb”, “sugar free” or “whole wheat”, check the ingredients list. Often, when food companies take something out, they have to add something else. That can be sugar, chemicals or other stabilizers. Anything that you can’t pronounce should tell you what you need to know – it’s not supposed to be in your body.

Brands with Healthy-Sounding Names

Think of anything with “naturals”, “nature”, “clean” or other obvious-sounding words that try to grab your attention leading with how healthy they are. Greenwashing is real and so is health-washing. No matter what the attention-grab is, always check the real ingredients to see if they truly are natural and clean.

Long Ingredient Lists

Always check the ingredient list to see what’s actually in whatever you’re thinking of buying. A list of twenty ingredients should give you pause. If whatever you’re looking at has a ton of ingredients made in a science lab, it shouldn’t be in your body.

High Sugar or Sugar Alcohol Content

In a world where the FDA regulates extremely small amounts of food companies’ claims, it’s up to you to sift through what’s real and what’s a marketing ploy. If the box touts “low sugar” or “low calorie”, they often have to replace those ingredients with synthetic ones. The best way to find out if their claims are true is to look at the nutrition label. Check the amount of sugar in the serving size. (Hint: anything more than 7 grams or so is considered candy by many nutritionists). If you notice the sugar content is above 8 or 9 grams per serving, move forward with caution.

Food is meant to grow from the earth. If you’re holding a box of genetically modified ingredients that came together in a lab, it’s hard for your body to digest. When looking for foods that really are healthy, use these tips to make sure you’re not buying a box full of chemicals and sugar.

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About Paige Pichler

Paige Pichler is a writer, speaker, Project HEAL National Ambassador and yoga instructor. She writes about wellness, higher consciousness and health trends for a better life.

View all posts by Paige Pichler

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