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3 Things to Look For On Every Food Label
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image by John Loo

Never assume anything when it comes to food labels. What seems simple may not be so simple. The product you’ve always loved can change without notice.

I continue to learn this the hard way. The first time, several years ago, was when I picked up a can of Market Pantry kidney beans at Target. It was just a can of basic beans. What could possibly be in there besides beans, water and salt? When I got home I happened to place it on a shelf at eye level with the label facing me. The words HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP popped out. What a waste of  my $0.79. No way was I eating those beans. That’s when I started making my own beans from dried.

I then became more concerned with reading the label on products I had not purchased before. Before I pick up any new product I always look past the health claims on the front of the box and go straight to the Nutrition Facts. This is where you get the real details. I look at three areas:

  • Calories and serving size: Does the serving size make sense?  Who only eats half a can of soup?
  • Ingredient list: I’m looking for sugar in all it’s forms, hydrogenated oils (source of ugly trans-fat) and other ingredients I can’t pronounce.
  • Protein and fiber: If it claims to be a “good source of” these nutrients the product should have at least 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

If I don’t like what I see I put it back.

With products I use on a regular basis I am not as diligent. My second lesson came recently with one of my favorite products – GoPicnic Meals.

Target had GoPicnic meals on sale last month 2 for $6. That’s a great deal so I wanted to stock up. I loaded up my cart with my two favorites, hummus and black bean, and continued shopping for other items for our London trip.

In our last week before leaving for London, I didn’t cook a lot. When you’re going to be gone for a week you don’t want to come home to any surprises, so the leftovers become very scarce. I grabbed one of my newly purchased GoPicnic meals for lunch at the studio. When I opened the box the first thing I noticed was the absence the dark chocolate.

In it’s place I found some sort of chocolate-shelled candy. Everything else in the box appeared to be the same, so I turned over to the Nutrition Facts to see what kind of difference this new dessert made. There was indeed a small difference in calories and sugar but nothing that concerned me. GoPicnic meals still make it on my “safe” list.

It did teach me a lesson. Never assume. Never trust that the products you love won’t change. It might take a moment or two but I’ve decided to check in on a regular basis with favorite brands as I shop. I’m also going to make my voice heard and write the GoPicnic team to beg for my dark chocolate back. It really tastes so much better than the candy coated bites.

Has one of your favorite products ever let you down? Ever been surprised by an ingredient change?

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