Video: How To Read Ingredient Labels

I am super excited to share this video with you today. Reading ingredient labels is one of the most important steps you can take when it comes to cutting out highly processed foods. And that’s because reading the ingredients is the number one way to know what’s in your food.

Honestly, food marketers make it no easy task though. They distract us with misleading claims on the front of the package and often use terminology that makes the product sound better than it really is. So watch along while I walk you through eight real life packaged food examples and explain how to decipher each of their ingredient labels!

Additional Food Label Resources:

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

82 thoughts on “Video: How To Read Ingredient Labels”

  1. Thank you so much for all of the helpful information you share on your blog! I was wondering what you thought of Trader Joe’s Inner Peas. Would you consider those a good snack option?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. While the ingredient list is short, which is great, it has both refined oil and a preservative. This makes it unlikely to come home in Lisa’s shopping cart. :)

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this information. Food labels are so misleading it seems unfathomable that they are allowed to do this. I just purchased your book as i have developed a real passion to live a healthy life for myself and my family. I just discovered your website it’s so wonderful thanks for your sharing your knowledge!!

  3. Hi Lisa! My name is April and I’m a teacher in Ellicott City, MD. I teach a class called Future of Foods which strives to teach kids how to make healthier food choices (among other things).

    Last week, the lesson was about reading nutrition and ingredient labels and we watched your video. The kids really enjoyed you and the tips you shared so I wanted to thank you for making this video. You made my job easier and reached about 120 kids! :-)

  4. Is there any one place to find bad ingredients on food labels? I had one last year that disappeared this year. You could search A to Z and it said what was ok or not.

  5. thanks for sharing this video. I have been switching to organic over the last few months and was introduced to your website through a friend. I am guilty of assuming that anything organic is good for you. Ugh, so much to learn still!! I cannot get my family to switch over to whole wheat pasta to save my life, so I have been buying organic regular pasta. Same with organic yogurt – they won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole!!! Baby steps.

  6. This was a great video, but showing a good option after each highly processed option would be really helpful to people who are new to label reading.

  7. Hi. Love your blog. I hear the word organic thrown around alot these days. Can you explain what that term means. Thanks

  8. Good Lord, there is no telling what all I have been eating!!. I thought that doing a pantry audit was good. SHRIEK!! I need to trash it all… I am assuming that you start off slow. Like with the crackers. If you find the correct ones..Meaning all organic then thats the ones you keep buying? What about cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pies. Do you make any?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Victoria. Yes, it takes some time to figure out all the details that work best for you. You do not have to trash everything at once (though many do). You could consider doing the mini pledges https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/original-100-day-pledge/ which can ease you in one change at a time. And yes, Lisa makes a bit of everything. Just peruse the recipe index: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/real-food-resources/recipe-index/. :)

  9. Loved your video, and since finding your site I have slowly changed what we buy. The only thing is I would love to see a video with some alternative choices for things like crackers. As of right now we don’t buy any crackers because I was overwhelmed trying to find a alternative my kids would eat.

    1. I found a cracker I love at Whole Foods. It is their brand, looks just like a Triscuit, but only contains whole wheat and I believe salt. Much blander that Triscuits, but with a chunk of cheese they taste great!

  10. Thanks for the info! Super helpful. However, you didn’t elaborate on what the 5 whole ingredient thing is… Can you explain that part a little more? Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jane. We use the 5 ingredient rule as a marker to help people when choosing foods that are least processed. The more ingredients, typically, the more processed…especially if those are ingredients that you wouldn’t see in a whole/real foods pantry. There are, obviously, exceptions but 5 ingredients is the yard stick we use. :)

  11. Christine Oler

    I have absolutely loved you blog! The recipes are easy to follow and it makes me so happy that my family of six is trying to eat “real food”. I am looking for some advice though. Somethings my kids just won’t give up. Especially when it comes to yogurt. My daughters love fruit or granola with yogurt. I have started buying plain, whole yogurt and flavoring it myself. But my kids absolutely hate it! I have to admit, I put a lot of vanilla flavor in and I was still on the fence! Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

    1. Try adding honey or maple syrup to sweeten it, then add fruit/granola. I also just add some of my homemade freezer jam (which I still made with sugar this last batch, but plan to use Lisa’s recipe next time).

    2. All yogurt is not created equal. We buy to a locally made organic yogurt that tastes so much better than the ones we’ve purchased in the super market. I have bought branded yogurt in a pinch and my kids definitely noticed the difference. We do put honey and berries and sometimes granola in the yogurt. I wouldn’t bother with vanilla. Vanilla requires sugar to taste good.

  12. Thank you. This was helpful. Could you do one that shows more of what you found to be good, like the blue box of Annie’s Mac and cheese? That would save this mom of 4 some time with reading labels! 😀

  13. Hi! Love your blog. I was in the supermarket the other day and I found these: Utz Multigrain Tortillas, advertised as “All Natural, Gluten free, No preservatives, and
    No Trans Fat.”

    Ingredient list: Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn Flour, Corn Oil, Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour, Flax Seeds, Oat Fiber, Evaporated Cane Juice, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Quinoa, Soy Protein Isolate, Sea Salt

    Seems fairly okay (especially for a convenience item) even if it doesn’t follow the “five ingredient rule.”

    What do you think? What exactly is Evaporated Cane Juice? And what is Soy Protein Isolate? I see these ingredients on labels for a lot of “health food items.” And was curious as to what they are? Do you know?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi DeAnne. Neither are ingredients we would have in our pantry and would avoid them in foods. Evaporated cane juice is sugar and soy protein isolate is a very processed form of soy (condensed to mostly protein) that no longer resembles the plant. :) ~Amy

  14. Just wanted to say I love your site and your advice on reading labels. I learned to read labels years ago when Sugar Busters first came out. I lived the whole “low fat” phase of the late 80’s and early 90’s. I have witnessed so many inconsistencies in dietary advice that it has been confusing at times. Thankfully, I believe, we as consumers are wising up to the games food manufacturers make when labeling food. That being said, herein lies my problem. I live in a “poor” state. The nearest “city” is an hour away. (Refer to this news article as to why Whole Foods won’t build here: http://www.ktbs.com/story/22468139/why-whole-foods-market-has-not-opened-a-store-in-shreveport-bossier) . The nearest Whole Foods is about 6 hours away. Shopping at Sunshine Health foods is a budget buster and lacks variety. The stores here carry very little organic anything. We are limited in our food choices regardless of our knowledge of or willingness to follow a whole foods diet. For now, organic isn’t really an option, and I feel others may simply give up if they can’t follow the plan perfectly. So it’s baby steps for us! I hope those who have full access to organic realize its not an option for everyone and also how fortunate they are.

  15. Somebody told me once (I apologize if it was you Lisa:)) taht the easiest way to avoid processed foods at the grocery store is to ‘shop the edges’. Most stores have produce, eggs, milk, meat, etc. around the perimeter of the store and the processed stuff in the middle aisles. It’s not foolproof but it works fairly well depending on where you shop.

  16. Very good info. Reading labels is sad because you realize that the things you have been consuming for years is not really food after all. I’ve been trying to go real food for a couple of months now. Challenging finding real food where I live.

  17. Just wanted to say keep up the great work! I had to shop at Jewel (Albertson’s) yesterday due to the weather, and whoa! It is hard to find whole foods there! Even in the produce section, my kids complained that the oranges didn’t taste good. I am so fortunate to have a Whole Foods near by, but the state of a grocery store that the general population has to shop at has me horrified. Here’s hoping more folks catch on/follow you all! Happy new Year!

    1. Stick with it! Keep that motivation up and come back to tell us how it goes for you. Its such a life changing thing to understand what you’re putting in your body!

  18. Hi Lisa! Do you use the Cigna Fooducate app at all to help decide on what foods are “good” for you? Do you know anything about it? Think it’s accurate? Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lacie. The Fooducate app is great for people who are trying to make better/healthier choices at the grocery store. It is somewhat less helpful when eliminating processed foods as a rule, simply because many real/whole foods have no ingredient label at all. :) ~Amy

  19. Great post. Very informative. In addition to the foods that we put in our body, lotions, deodorants are just as important. Not sure if you pay attention to those, but there are so many unnecessary ingredients which equals unnecessary toxins in our bodies. All I can do is shake my head because the advertisements are so misleading!

  20. This was really helpful! I’ve been buying my kids some honey wheat pretzels that I thought were whole grain, but I checked the ingredients again after watching this video. The first ingredient is “organic wheat flour”, no “whole”! I found some other pretzels to try that list whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. Thanks!

  21. When your counting whole ingredients do you count all the different spices as one or as an individual ingredient?

    I have a few things i have found that are like 6/7/8 ingredients but it has several spices that are listed seperatly on the list pushing it over the 5 ingredients rule…

    Help please!! Thanks :)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jewel. This is kind of a grey area. I think you are fine counting the spices as one. I would also say the same thing about counting a list of 100% whole grains as one. :) Hope that helps.

  22. Wonderful video – seriously valuable to me.

    I came here on recommendation from a blog, & have to say I am enormously impressed. Also, you’re very personable – but more than anything, you’re factual. Wonderful, thank you.

  23. Thanks do much for posting this video! I have become more interested in eating real and am more label literate. However, your video pointed out some things I didn’t know and am glad to have learned. Happy New Year!

  24. Thank you for this video. As a physician I am always surprised by how brainwashed we all are by the front of the package. Food labeling is amazingly deceptive. Thank you for all of your work and your mission.

  25. Hi Lisa. I just love your website. Thank you so much for putting this information together for us. You are truly helping us to make informed and healthier choices. My family (and others) will be healthier for it! Hats off to a healthy and happier new year!

  26. Thank you for this! I’m a month into cleaning eating and shopping is still a mystery and I’ve been looking at the same foods you were showing. This was a big eye opener. I’m also trying to teach the kids that the best snacks are not already in the pantry but like you stated in one comment, things such as leftovers, eggs, rice, or other things that I have cooked and ready to eat. Thanks again and love the blog!

  27. Thank you so much. This video clearly explains food labels. As a consumer I am constantly fooled when shopping for groceries. I really enjoyed the simplicity and the step by step clarification. This is a great tool to help me on my challenge. Thanks!

  28. GREAT Video! Thank you Lisa!!! Dr. David Katz has a Nutrition Detectives DVD for elementary aged children to teach why food matters and show them how to not be fooled by food packaging, look for small ingredient lists, etc. It’s a little corny, but has some great lessons for kids and grown ups alike. I think you can find all the chapters on YouTube.

  29. I love your videos! As I was watching I thought “this is so elementary.” Then I realized how ignorant I was just a year or 2 ago. I’m so grateful for the information you put forth and how far I’ve come in changing my family’s diet.

    1. Also, I love the mixed patterns of your backsplash, the flowered curtains and the chevron rug. Intentional or not, it looks effortlessly cool.

  30. Thank you for the excellent information. I am just starting on this real food journey with my family. They are not super interested at this point, but as the main shopper and cook in this family, they will be eating more real food than they realize. My first step has been reading the packages and I am shocked what is in some of those products! Your recipes are great!

  31. Great information ! As a nurse I have always read food labels but now I am looking at the ingredients first before I look at the calorie or fat content. Nice presentation!

  32. Such a good video! You’re really great on camera, you should be on TV! You could have a show just explaining these concepts and it would honestly benefit a lot of people I think. And help to expose some of the manipulations of the food industry, like the “buzzwords” on the fronts of packages.

  33. Lisa,
    I discovered your blog via pinterest a while ago and have been using it as a resource since. I started shifting my eating habits when I got pregnant four years ago. I made my own organic baby food and became really conscious about what our son ate (and what we continue to eat as a family). Even though I feel like I know a lot, I still learn from you! We don’t agree on everything (I don’t eat meat) but this video, and other info here, is really helpful. I’m even considering showing it to my third graders during our health lesson to launch the nutrition unit (boy, is it my favorite one to teach!) So, thank you, and happy new year!

  34. Great info! The syrup brought up a point I’ve often been confused by: What is the difference between Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup? Are they different products, or just different names for the same thing?

    1. They are not exactly the same thing, but they are both highly processed! It’s kind of like “six of one and half a dozen of the other.” :)

  35. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am beginning my journey into revising my diet for health reasons, and to be honest, I’m lost!! I have never had to read labels, understand ingredients, or the sort. Videos like this are very helpful! I truly appreciate your desire to educate!

  36. Loved this Lisa!! Thank you so much for all that you do. I’m grateful to you from the rock bottom of my heart. You have healed me emotionally more than anything else. I resented cooking fresh food every day and would get cranky and unhappy.
    Ever since I have been exposed to you, I am truly a different woman. I am more organised, tidy and cook happily.
    My good wishes to you and your family- always!!

    1. Wow, if that isn’t amazing feedback I don’t know what is! Comments like yours are exactly what keep me going. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  37. Great video, very informative! Thank you. I wish you had shown more items that would be better for us and would fall into the five ingredient category. Could you give us more??? Thanks again!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Megan. Lisa cooks or prepares the majority of her family’s foods but she does have some posts that have recommendations for some convenience foods: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/04/21/for-convenience-the-best-store-bought-snacks-ii/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/07/04/for-convenience-the-best-store-bought-snacks/, and most recently: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/11/06/two-real-food-approved-store-bought-snacks/. Hope that helps. ~Amy

  38. I LOVE THIS!
    My husband & I were “forced” into label literacy thanks to our son’s severe allergies. We found that so few people around us really got it. It simply warms my heart, & makes me do my best Carlton nerd dance (well, because I can’t do any other moves!), whenever I read posts like this one.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  39. Such important information…Thank you so much for all of your hard work to spread the information about how to eat real food! Loved the video!

  40. Really great video, very informative. I’m shocked about the fake strawberries in the oats! Thanks for all your information. I’m starting the 100 day challenge on January 1!

      1. Thee was no audio. I saw a lot of comments, so it must have been my computer. Does it work on Mac?

      1. Thank you. I am on track with the grains. What I am having difficulty with is finding any packaged product with 5 or less ingredients. I do cook a lot but have teenagers that want filling quick snacks (warm). What other products like Annie’s whole wheat Mac and cheese do u buy?

      2. Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt

        Tessa, if you’re looking for warm snacks that you can make quickly, keep it simple.

        1. Miso soup: My teen puts a big spoonful of miso in a coffee mug, adds hot water, and stirs til dissolved.

        2. Rice: Keep extra cooked rice (whole grain) in the fridge. Heat up with whatever add-ins: butter, hot sauce, grated cheese, peas, nuts, yoghurt… be creative! My teen heats up her leftover rice in a pan and cracks in an egg or two and scrambles them in.

        3. Eggs: Fried or scrambled. Add in leftover meats, veggies, olives, etc.

        4. Oatmeal: Cook up a bunch of whole rolled oats (make the Weston A. Price way by soaking first) and keep in fridge. Heat up with some milk in a saucepan and add fruit, nuts, or go savory with cheese and garlic!

        5. Grits: Same as 4 – though I tend to go savory with mine.

        6. Leftovers: Never understimate the power of the leftover. Soups, stews, casseroles, and meats all make great warming treats.

        7. Warm (raw) milk drinks: add spices, chocolate, or nut butters to make cool concoctions.

        I would like to emphasize that the key here is simplicity. These are snacks, not whole meals. Encourage your teens to be creative. Talk with them about the kinds of flavours they crave for snacks and brainstorm together about some essentials to keep in the fridge.

        Good luck!

      3. Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt

        P.S. Tessa, another thought: Try to get out of the mindset of thinking of products to buy. Rather, think of whole foods that you already KNOW the ingredients of!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *