Navigating Nutrition Labels

Sometimes it’s difficult to know them when you see them. They’re either called something unfamiliar or hiding behind the façade of neat marketing gimmicks. Diet, low-fat, biodynamic, green, and even organic are all words that have been used to describe foods that claim to be healthy. Those claims paired with a long list of ingredients that are barely pronounceable, well sometimes it can be difficult to decipher the healthy stuff from the not so healthy stuff. We want to help clear up the confusion. On this week’s episode of Nutrition Made Simple, we take a look at some of the products that are the worst culprits, many of the sneaky ingredients and the many names they go by, and how to pick the best products for your health the next time you’re at the grocery store. Because, your health is worth it.

Products mentioned in this video:

Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Primal Kitchen Organic Golden BBQ Sauce

Primal Kitchen Organic Sugar Free Steak Sauce

Brian Strickland  00:00

Hey everyone, welcome back to Nutrition Made Simple a series that we created that takes a look at ideas surrounding natural health. And then we break them down into easy to understand and actionable steps. I'm Brian Strickland, and I'm joined today by Cady Kuhlman. She's the co-owner of Nutrition World, we're excited to have her on again today. And for the month of July, we really kind of been taking a look at what's the best when it comes to food. And that's kind of a complex subject that has a lot of different facets. And so we've taken a look at everything from a healthy diet to food certifications, produce and meat certifications. And Cady even shared a healthy dessert recipe last week that you should definitely check out. But today, we really wanted to take a look at food labels. And they can be a little difficult to decipher. Sometimes there's a lot of information back there. There's sneaky ingredients, there's serving sizes that you have to pay attention to. And so that's what we wanted to talk about today. So to start us off, Kati, one of the biggest things when it comes even before you look at a food label on the back of the package is the marketing that's on the front of the package, because we have words like natural and light and diet, but they don't always mean what they say do though.

Cady Kuhlman  01:25

Exactly. And so that's actually one of my big big pet peeves in either skincare, food, any of those industries is this idea of greenwashing. So what this is, it's a marketing term that basically means that the companies can throw these words or these adjectives around, and really have no sound meaning behind them. Because you don't get certified to be natural, you don't get certified to be, you know, diet, you don't get certified to be clean, or whatever the words may be thrown around. I mean, companies can even say organic on the front. Now, if they have the organic USDA Organic seal, that's a different story, they have been actually certified, but if they just throw the word organic, or they throw some word of bio certified or you know, something that makes our mind automatically say, Ooh, that's healthy, I don't need to turn that label around. I'm just gonna trust. Well, sadly, that's just not the case. We just can't blindly trust a lot of companies. 

Brian Strickland  02:26

Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of discernment involved when it comes to that. So once we examine the front of the package, make a decision, we've got to turn it around and look at the back, because that's where all the really important information is. And so just as a precursor, and in general, what information is on a food label, what are some of the bigger categories that people need to look for?

Cady Kuhlman  02:48

Totally. So I love to turn around a food label, and actually start looking at what are the top three to five ingredients on that label. So like at the bottom, you'll see the nutrition facts, and you'll be able to see how much fat, how much protein, how much sugar. I love to pay attention to how much sugars in something. And then I love to look and see what types of fat are included in my label. But at this point, I'd love for us to really hone in and talk about the below the nutrition facts, the actual ingredients. And so they are listed as the quantity is used within this product. So like if we're looking at my personal favorite salad dressing, which is the Primal Kitchen, honey mustard, it's a vinaigrette and marinade. And it's made with avocado oil. So it's a healthy fat, which is phenomenal. We'll talk about that in a minute. So avocado oil is first, water is next apple cider vinegar, mustard, and then organic vinegars. So I kind of said look at the top three to five ingredients that are in the ingredient profile. So those are so clean, we all know those are health foods, those are real, clean, wonderful ingredients. Another tip would be see how long the ingredient list is going on. If it's going on for a big old chunk of that label, or there's words that are just so confusing to your eye, and they're unrecognizable, doesn't always mean they're bad, but it means that it's going to take further research for you to know if it's good.

Brian Strickland  04:11

Right. So even just a quick glance, you can kind of see it doesn't take very long to turn in and look at the back of the label and kind of make a quick judgment on whether it's a good choice or not.

Cady Kuhlman  04:22

Exactly. And I love when you can find a stand up brand like Primal Kitchen. And this isn't always the case. Some brands can have some good products and then some not so good products. With Primal Kitchen I'm surprisingly impressed all the way across the board with their use of ingredients their use of their no preservatives that are in there, their healthy fat profile, their lack of sugar, and so kind of a call out here to Primal Kitchen being a really stand up brand for what we're looking for.

Brian Strickland  04:50

Yeah, and so one of the things that we talked about and really in the fitness community are macros, right? So can you explain what we need to look for as far as food labels What should we be looking for when it comes to macros? 

Cady Kuhlman  05:02

Yeah, totally. So the three biggest macros that people are going to look at, it's going to be protein, fat, and then carbohydrates, or sugar, those can kind of somewhat be interchangeable there. So what that means is, is, you know, in a salad dressing or in a steak sauce, or barbecue sauce that we're looking at here, we're not going to really find protein, that's not going to be something that's going to be found. But we're going to be looking at fats. And we want to know what type of fat is within this. Is it polyunsaturated? Is it saturated? Is it trans? Is it mono unsaturated? What type of fat is included in here. And then we're going to be looking for sugar. And so hidden sugars are huge, huge deal. Before this video, we were kind of speaking about, you know, what's the best way to know that sugar is in something? And how can we train our audience to be more tuned in to when sugars in something because sugar can be hidden under other words that we may not be aware of. So brown rice syrups, glucose syrup, there's vegetable glycerin and you would think wait vegetable that's unhealthy. But glycerin actually adds to sugar content, it could be sugar alcohols that are in there. Now, I love to turn around and see, you know, in this label, just so we can look at this. There are two grams of sugar. And so why? I go down on the list and the second to last ingredient organic honey. So they have added a clean pure source of sugar. And it's very low on the list. And in the two tablespoons. It's giving us two grams of sugar. Yeah, very low. 

Brian Strickland  06:31

So as far as food categories are concerned, and we've already talked about this a little bit, but what are some of the bigger food items that we need to be on the lookout for when it comes to examining food labels?

Cady Kuhlman  06:45

So you might be able to guess by looking at our table here, but it is salad dressings, sauces, barbecue sauces, marinades, its sauces if we're gonna boil it down to something. Sauces can be stacked full of preservatives, sauces can be stacked full of MSG: monosodium glutamate. For those who aren't as familiar with what that is, that is a compound that actually acts in our brain as a way to become really addicted and attached to wanting to eat more and more of that food substance. It actually fires out in our neurotransmitters to say, Oh, that was really tasty. That was really good. Let's eat more, let's eat more. I've trained my brain and my taste buds to kind of know what that tastes like. Because so many restaurants are adding it into their sauces and their dressings. So many soups have it, but really going back the dressings and the sauces. So when I'm at a restaurant, I am generally going to ask for very plain cooked meat, and then dressing on the side. And I may try to dip a little bit of my dressing or something in there. But generally, I'm the weird one that's going to take the salad dressing because it's not found at a restaurant unless you're gonna do plain oil and plain vinegar.

Brian Strickland  08:03

Yeah. So as far as ingredients are concerned, you spoke about kind of the the first three ingredients are going to be listed in quantity. So the first being the most moving on down the list. But what are some of the sneakier ingredients that people may not be aware of when they're reading food labels that are unhealthy?

Cady Kuhlman  08:25

Yeah, sure. So keep in mind, we spoke a little bit about the the sugars that that may, people may not be aware of, I want to give this one tip, if anything ends in ose, that means it's a form of sugar. So if it's sucralose, glucose, the doses are leaving my brain but any ose that means that it is a derivative of sugar, or it's more than likely going to spike your blood sugar a little bit. So for me, that's a kind of heavy avoidance. For pre diabetics, that's going to be a thing to avoid. So that would be a big one. I will also say this is something that is not common knowledge. I am not a huge fan of citric acid unless I know where the citric acid is sourced from and why do I say that? It's simply because 80 to 90% of citric acid that's found in our food is actually sourced from mold. So this is a very toxic form of mold. It's the Aspergillus mold, and it's sadly it's a preservative, keeps the food staying fresh and you would think how's it staying fresh when it's mold, but it has some kind of compound that keeps it fresh. Now I'm going to point this out before anyone notices this. Sir Kensington has the second to last ingredient is citric acid. I contacted them because I don't want to eat citric acid and I love this mayonaise and it is sourced from citrus, lemons and oranges the way that citric acid should be sourced from but they found it cheaper companies have to source for mold.

Brian Strickland  09:57

That's crazy. I had no idea about that so that's good to know. To kind of wrap things up, kind of the last thing on our list was to talk about serving sizes, because that is a big deal. You may look on the back end, and you're like, Oh, that's really not that bad until you see that. It's like a teaspoon is a serving size. And you're using like three cups of it. So can you just say a little bit about that?

Cady Kuhlman  10:19

Yeah, totally. And so, you know, with these options here, I'm a big believer in healthy fats. And so I'm not going to be as critical in my judgment on exactly following the label with the use of these healthy fat options. However, if there is sugar in items, I really want to watch that serving size. And so for this reason, there is honey in this honey mustard, that's two tablespoons, I will try to abide by the two tablespoons. And you know, if you actually pour two tablespoons on a salad, it's going to be enough. But you might be surprised it's not quite as much as you pouring in just saturating your whole salad. Barbecue sauce, this one over here, the golden barbecue sauce, it's actually an unsweetened one. And so to some people, that might be a new taste to them, because barbecue sauces are heavily sweetened with Maple syrups and they're brown sugars, and they're all sorts of things and barbecue sauce. And then this is their steak sauce, it's the same way. So it's sugar free as well. And then so everything up here generally is lower sugar content. But keep in mind, you know, a tablespoon would be you filling a big spoon and kind of dumping that onto your plate. And so abiding by the serving size is the way the food was intended to be consumed. Like I said, if it's low sugar, and it's more of a healthy fat, I'm okay going up in that because we do love fats. And that's a big part of our teachings here.

Brian Strickland  11:41

Yeah. Awesome. So really, anytime that we're delving into kind of multi ingredient products, that's really where we need to start paying more attention. Yeah, and even with single ingredient products, it's still wise to look at the back of the label because there can be those preservatives and other things in there that you may not want. So here, again, Primal Kitchen, big fans of what they do. It's full paleo, clean. Anything you want basically, you can find. Kensington, this is an avocado oil mayonnaise, right? It's based on avocado oil, super healthy, fat. Coconut aminos, which are a soy sauce, substitute. Some of the soy sauces are riddled with some pretty nasty stuff, honestly. And then lastly, this is actually a local good that we have. This is Chattanooga Butter Company. Right. And so they have grass fed butter, coconut oil.

Cady Kuhlman  12:38

And this one, yeah, this one has garlic in it. So they're roasted garlic butter. And then the really cool thing about this is sea salt is used as the natural preservative. So things can be naturally made to preserve items. It just cost a company a little more to use them. And then also it shortens their shelf life. But we're okay with that. Because we know that it was naturally sourced. And as Brian just spoke, this is one of the only mayonaise I've ever seen on the shelf. I'm not kidding, because I hunted for this. The first ingredients avocado oil, so those healthy, healthy healthy fats that come from avocados, number one ingredient, and then we move into egg yolks, water, vinegar, salt, lime juice, and then we move and we're done almost with the whole label there. And so that's my tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad.

Brian Strickland  13:25

Yeah, phenomenal. Yeah. And I mean, as many people know, using mayonnaise as a base for many dips and sauces, too. I mean, it's as long as you're starting out, you know, with a good base ingredient you can build upon that as much as you want. And, you know, put all sorts of flavor profiles in it that make it really great. All right. Well, I think that about covers it. Thank you so much for watching today. We hope this was helpful. Again, we have a lot of these products in the store. If you ever want to check them out. You can look at And that's it for today. We'll see you next time on Nutrition Made Simple. Take care, everyone. Thank you.