Label Reading: Part 4

I am teaching the last of my label reading workshops at The Resort this week. As discussed in my last three blog posts, these sessions involve examining food labels from different categories of foods to determine which products are healthier than others.

This week we are examining breads and energy bars. We are also discussing a few snacks items. Below are some general tips of what to look for in these types of products.
1) Breads:
  • Look for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain breads
  • The first ingredient should be a whole grain
  • Look for at least 3 or more grams of fiber per serving
  • Avoid enriched or bleached flours
  • Avoid hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated, modified or fractioned oils
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup
  • Avoid artificial additives, sweeteners, colors or flavors
Some examples of better bread options could include: Oroweat or Arnold brand 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins, Oroweat, Arnold or other brand 100% Whole Wheat/Grain Double Fiber breads, Thomas brand 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins, 100% whole grain sprouted breads, and Great Harvest Bread Company Honey Whole Wheat or other whole grain breads.
2) Energy Bars:
  • Look for short ingredients list (avoid long list of artificial ingredients)
  • Look for bars made with more natural ingredients
  • Avoid a lot of added sugars–look for bars that are sweetened naturally with fruit
  • Look for whole grains or rolled oats
  • Avoid hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils
Some examples of better energy bar options could include: Larabar (any variety), Pure Organic bar (any variety), and Fruition bar (any variety).
3) Snacks:
  • Nuts can be a good snack in moderation. In most cases, it is better to avoid buying pre-made nut mixes as these tend to have added sugars, salt, artificial sweeteners and other such ingredients. It’s often better to buy plain raw or roasted nuts and then make your own mix with things like seeds, dried fruit or pieces of dark chocolate.
  • Homemade popcorn can be a good snack. In general, it’s better to make your own popcorn from scratch. This way you can control what you do or don’t put in it. You can have it plain, add your own spices or natural sweeteners, add Parmesan cheese on top for a protein source, or make it with a healthier oil or butter (for example, Land O Lakes Butter Olive Oil Mix).
  • Store-bought popcorn can be an okay option as well. Read the food label and try to avoid hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils. Try to avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, acesulfame K or others. Light popcorns can be good options as these tend to have less calories, but check the ingredients list to avoid artificial sweeteners or hydrogenated oils.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD