Reading Food Labels to Make Healthier Choices

woman at grocery store reading food labels

Do you read food labels?

Most of us skip the food labels on the back of our food and do like the marketers want and just read the front.

We are enticed with eye-catching, colorful information on the front of food packaging, but it’s the less appealing stuff on the back that’s ultimately the most important. Still, many of us fail to read food labels, and that could be killing us.

If you took just a little time to break down what I’m about to show you, just for even a few items each week, you would be doing yourself and your family a huge favor. Your heart, muscles, arteries, and digestive system will thank you!

So before you reach for those chips at halftime, let’s take a look at the food labels of two popular brands of pre-packaged guacamole. I wanted to find the answer to this question: Is there a healthy guacamole option out there that I don’t have to make myself?

A lesson in reading food labels:

Let’s do a little comparison shopping, shall we?

If you’re like me, the very first comparison you are making while shopping the aisles at the grocery store is by price. That said, my personal opinion is, filling my body with better ingredients, in most cases, is more important than saving a few cents per serving.

As a single mom, I can tell you that I am VERY cost conscious, but I also want VALUE for my dollars. Most of the time, I can tweak my budget to allow for a higher priced, nutritionally sound item, and sacrifice somewhere else, like waiting a little longer to buy a new pair of shoes or a morning latte.

First up: Dean’s Guacamole

deansguacThe serving size says 2 tablespoons. If we’re eating the guacamole with tortilla chips, I’m not sure 2 tablespoons will be enough, but OK, let’s just go with that (just know we will probably need to multiply our serving size after the first five chips!).

In our 2 Tbs serving size, we will be getting 90 calories, 9 grams of fat (2.5 of them saturated), and 180 grams of sodium.

Looking at the ingredient list is where I was shocked! There are over 45 “foods” listed (rule of thumb: look at the first five). I was surprised at how far down the list actual avocados are. Yes, they’re in there, but not until ingredient #8, and notice it says “avocado pulp”. The rest of the list is a strange mix of chemicals and preservatives. Here is the entire list:

  • Skim milk
  • Soybean oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Water
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat)
  • Avocado pulp
  • Lactic acid
  • Sugar
  • Sodium Caseinate (added dairy)
  • Mono and Diglycerides (to extend shelf life)
  • Xanthan gum (to increase viscosity of a liquid)
  • Cellulose gel (keeps whipped foods fluffy)
  • Disodium phosphate (an emulsifier)
  • Dextrose (sugar)
  • Artificial colors (FD&CBlue No. 1, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6)

And now for the item behind door number two…

Wholly Guacamole

wholly_guacamoleThe serving size is the same, at 2 Tablespoons, but the calories and fat seem a lot better:

In our 2 Tbs, we have 60 calories, 5 grams of fat (1 unsaturated), and 105 grams of sodium.

But that’s not the best part.

The best part is that this brand only has 7 ingredients, and they are all easily recognizable. 

  • Haas avocados
  • Jalapeño puree (white vinegar, jalapeno peppers, salt)
  • Dehydrated onion
  • Dehydrated red bell pepper
  • Jalapeno powder
  • Salt
  • Granulated garlic

That’s it!

food labelsSo now let me ask you, which guacamole would you buy? If you said the Wholly Guacamole, I would definitely say you’re one smart cookie (or should I say tortilla chip)! And how easy of a swap would this be, to give yourself and your party guests a better, healthier alternative?

The next time you’re walking up and down the aisles, check out those food labels carefully, and you just might be able to make a small change that will do your body good. As far as the price issue, it’s going to be your call to make.

You’ll notice I didn’t include prices in this post, not that cost is irrelevant, but more so because your purchase will need to be based on your best judgment of what you are willing to pay for and what value it has for you and your family. I mean, I could literally stretch my food dollars a lot further if my I went to the $.99 menu at the drive through everyday, but one way or another, I end up paying for whatever choices I make.

Of course, if you REALLY want to know what you’re putting on your chips, go buy some avocados, limes, tomatoes, onion, mustard and cilantro, Google a healthy recipe, and I’m sure you can make it yourself! I found some good ones here.

Need help incorporating healthy eating into your workout routine? One of the staples in my family is Shakeology. Every member of my family drinks it and we don’t go a day without it, and it’s packed with all the Superfoods you need for a healthy, active lifestyle. Check it out here, or leave me a question and I will contact you.

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