#18: How to Read Food Labels Like You’re a Lawyer!

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Major thank you to Sunwarrior for sponsoring this episode! If you don’t already know, I’m a die-hard fanatic of Sunwarrior’s plant-protein powder (their ‘vanilla classic’ is my favorite!). To hear about how adding Sunwarrior protein into my diet has radically changed my health and physique, read this! <<

Ok, so reading food labels….

Reading a food label can be as confusing as reading a legal document. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo in there that’s irrelevant, as well as a lot of funky wording that can be incorrectly interpreted. However, unlike with legal documents, you don’t need to study law and pass the bar to be able to READ a bar. (Like, a snack bar.)

It’s true that the diet of a plant-party person doesn’t include MUCH labeled-foods. That’s the whole thing with eating loads of plants – aside from a wrapped flag around your kale marking it as kale, or an “organic” sticker on an apple here or there (or sometimes in your mouth by mistake) there aren’t many labels in a heavily plant-based diet.

But, as I said in episode 1 (which if you haven’t listened to, you should because it’s all about what a plant-based diet really is!), the name of the plant-party game is essentially just eating more plants than you do processed foods. And the way to ensure the processed foods you ARE eating are the least bad ones possible is by reading their labels like a lawyer reads a legal document:

STEP 0: IGNORE ALL MARKETING SLOGANS!!!

When it comes to food labels, you’ve gotta be like an ass-man and only stare at the back of products. The front? Where the expertly-written, thoroughly tested to see their brainwash impact BS words live? Not for you, you’re an ass-man. You turn that product around and check out the back label, bro.

STEP 1: Shoot your eyes immediately to the INGREDIENTS LIST.

  • When you read the ingredients list, notice: are there many ingredients? In processed, packaged foods, the more is NOT the merrier! You want the ingredients list to be like your partner’s ex-lover’s list….as short as possible. If it’s too long, I’d say over about 6 or 7 ingredients, you really want to reconsider eating it.
  • Can you pronounce all the ingredients in the list? I mean, Even if you pronounce them wrong like Hermione, Ge-off or qin-oah, do the ingredients not sound like prescription drugs or things that should be in toilet cleaner?
  • Are the first half of the ingredients GOOD things? Ingredient labels list their ingredients in order from most prominent to least so make sure sure the first half of the ingredients listed are things you really want to eat.
  • And finally – are there any LIARS on the list? Like, for example…did you know there are 56 ways to say sugar?
Agave nectar*
Barbados sugar*
Barley malt
Beet sugar*
Blackstrap molasses*
Brown rice syrup*
Brown sugar*
Buttered syrup*
Cane juice crystals*
Cane sugar*
Caramel*
Carob syrup*
Castor sugar*
Confectioner’s sugar*
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Crystalline fructose*
Date sugar*
Demerara sugar*
Dextran
Dextrose
Diastatic malt
Diatase
Ethyl maltol
Evaporated cane juice*
Florida crystals*
Fructose*
Fruit juice*
Fruit juice concentrate*
Galactose
Glucose
Glucose solids
Golden sugar*
Golden syrup*
Grape sugar*
High-fructose corn syrup*
Honey*
Icing sugar*
Invert sugar*
Lactose
Malt syrup
Maltose
Maple syrup*
Molasses*
Muscovado sugar*
Organic raw sugar*
Panocha*
Raw sugar*
Refiner’s syrup*
Rice syrup
Sorghum syrup*
Sucrose*
Sugar*
Treacle*
Turbinado sugar*
Yellow sugar*

STEP 2: Venture over to the “servings per.”

If what you’re eyeing as a 1 full snack is, in THEIR mind, (who’s they?) a 4-serving snack, Houston, we have a problem. So try to make sure your single-person grub is labeled at 1 or maybe 2 servings.

STEP 3: SCOPE OUT THE GRAMS OF SUGAR.

I RARELY progress if the grams of sugar is in the double digits. In general, if sugar is one of the top 3-5 ingredients on the ingredients label, you might wanna reconsider allowing it to greet your body since, like I said before, ingredients are listed in order of most prevalent to least, so sugar being at the top of the list means it’s one of the stars of the show.

STEP 4: After sugar, I like to head on over to the fat.

If something’s unusually high in fat, I take note because maybe I misinterpreted an ingredient or didn’t notice how it’s prepared. A perfect example of this is frozen sweet potato fries you can buy in the freezer. Obviously. They don’t usually outwardly say “DEEP FRIED THEN FROZEN” on the bag, BUT when their fat content is super high, I can’t help but assume they were fried in lots of oil first, which means no thanks to my insides second.

Step 5: I like to wrap up my food label scavenger hunt with a price check.

Since the healthy food labels I read aren’t the cheap-o Cheetos in the store, I often have to ponder whether or not the product is worth the price. I ask myself if getting the store-brand equivalent of this product would be equally healthy or if buying this fancy company’s cool-y marketed product is actually necessary. I double check with myself that I’ll actually EAT IT. And I actually WANT IT. Would an apple suffice? Or a bottle of water? If I want it, I get it and I don’t complain about the price. Cause I know if I spend a little extra moolah on healthy food-la, then I’m gonna need to spend less moolah on medical crapoola moving forward.

Oh! and If you’re wondering why the heck I didn’t say to look for organic on the label, here’s my answer:

Organic holds more weight with produce – you know? And produce, like apples, pears, berries, don’t typically come with a nutrition label so they’re not really what I’m talking about here. Do you want to buy organic ketchup? Sure, can’t hurt, but I’d rather you buy a ketchup with the most quality, non processed ingredients than one with organic tomatoes and loads of cane sugar. Nah mean, amigo?


Bottom line is: the less labeled-food you eat, the less-sucky you’ll feel and look in your life. BUT, the more effort you put into reading your labels, specifically the INGREDIENTS LIST ON YOUR LABELS the more awesome your labeled-food-food choices will be!

Another major thank you to Sunwarrior for sponsoring this episode! 

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