Overwhelmed at the grocery store? Who isn’t? So many crackers, cereals, yogurts, granola bars to choose from. How do you know which ones are actually good for you? Answering three questions before purchasing any product will narrow down the choices and grocery shopping will be easier!

An important step in evaluating a food product is to ignore the packaging

Keep in mind, the food company wants your money and creates a package with striking colors, pictures, and health claims designed to sell their product. Popular words on packages are “high protein” “whole grains” and “good source of fiber, therefore ignore the packaging.

The next step is to zero in on the ingredients and ask these three questions:

Question 1; Are there about 5 ingredients or less?

Many packaged foods have numerous ingredients. Start reading the ingredients on the products in your food cabinet, refrigerator and freezer and you will be surprised about all of the ingredients you are eating. Some products have 50 ingredients! If the product has about five ingredients or less, it is a plus. Fewer ingredients = less processed.

If it has more than 5 ingredients, look for another option.

Question 2: Can you pronounce the ingredients?

Whole plant-based food has ingredients you can easily pronounce such as apple, raisins, oats, brown rice. When the ingredients include words such as hydrogenated, butylated hydroxytoluene, and monosodium glutamate that are challenging to pronounce, it is a red flag that the food product is highly processed.

If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, look for a better option.

Chemical Laboratory of food
Chemical Laboratory of the Food supply . Food in laboratory, dna modify .GMO Genetically modified food in lab .

Question 3: Do you know what the ingredients are?

Another red flag is if you need to look up the ingredients to figure out what it is you are eating. Highly processed foods contain unknown ingredients and additives that are not food and are more harmful than helpful.

The food product is essentially created in a lab and is a science experiment. EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food notes 12 additives to watch out for in products.

If you do not know what the ingredients are, look for a better option.

Oreo ingredients

Bottom Line: Read It, Before You Eat It

The most nutritious foods are whole foods meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. however, eating 100% whole foods can be challenging. Therefore when choosing packaged foods, be sure it is an awesome choice.

If the answer was yes to ALL 3 QUESTIONS, it is a positive sign the product is a thumbs up. If you answered no to one or more of the questions, place the product back on the shelf and look for an alternative.

Cracker Detective Experiment:

Next time you are at the grocery store, check out the ingredients for the following three crackers:

  • Original Triscuits
  • Wheat Thins
  • Whole Wheat Ritz Crackers

Which cracker passed all three questions? Which one was the worst option?

Let’s connect! Did you like this article? Let me know your thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Kim Raring

I am passionate about promoting a conscious lifestyle incorporating whole plant-based foods, sustainable food-related choices, and mindful eating practices. Want to learn about simple strategies to create a feel-good lifestyle? Check out all of the conscious nibbling tips.

5 Responses

  1. Debra Share says:

    I just found what to me tastes like the best imitation beef that I’ve had—the brand is called “Pure” and I got it at Shop Rite. Better than “Impossible” and “Beyond” brands. More than 5 ingredients, but no big chemicals (nothing I can’t pronounce or don’t understand). What do you think? Here are the ingredients:
    Water, coconut oil, soy protein concentrate, isolated soy protein, canola oil, various spices [eg, salt, paprika…etc], dextrose, maltodextrin, methylcellulose, citric acid, soy lecithin.

    • Kim Raring says:

      Hi Debra, thank you for sharing the information on the imitation beef product. I think when comparing products, it is about choosing the best product, with the best/least ingredients, and taking the taste into consideration and it sounds like you found one that works for you. I will definitely keep this brand in mind, for people interested in a plant-based alternative beef product.

  2. Regina says:

    Hi Kim. Great advice! I try to eat whole foods and stay plant focused. If I am buying any packaged food I have learned to scrutinize the ingredient list. Thank you. Your blog looks great! Easy to read. And I love the name!

    • Kim Raring says:

      Thank you so much Regina. I really appreciate the feedback! So great to hear that you are already a “conscious nibbler”. Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter.

  3. Jill Asuncion says:

    Excellent!! Interesting, reader friendly-easy read, easy to follow, not too much scientific jargon

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