CLEVELAND -- It’s no surprise that one of the most common New Year resolutions each year is to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle.
But before you dive into the latest fad diet, registered dietitian Melanie Jatsek has five things to keep in mind when it comes to reading food labels.
“Ignore the Nutrition Facts,” she says. “Look right at the ingredients, because that's what really matters.”
Here are the five "junk" ingredients she suggests you avoid:
1. Preservatives are found in things like cereal and cold cuts. Preservatives like BHA, BHT, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are possible carcinogens that can cause cancer in the body. Look for foods that do not have preservatives.
2. Artificial sweeteners, labeled as things like aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame potassium, increase your appetite, increase weight gain and even increase blood sugar. You’ll find these in sweet, low-calorie drinks. Instead, look for beverages that a flavored with real juice.
3. Trans fats are labeled as hydrogenated oils, and they increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease the HDL (good) cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease. A common culprit of trans fats is non-dairy coffee creamer.
4. High fructose corn syrup contributes to heart disease, diabetes and even weight gain. It’s found in sugary drinks and applesauce. Choose items that are naturally sweet.
5. Food coloring, labeled as Red, Yellow, or Blue in the ingredients list contain harmful chemicals that can contribute to hyperactivity in young children. Look for snack foods that do not have artificial colors.
Jatsek says when it comes to reading an ingredient list, a shorter list isn't necessarily always better, as long as you can pronounce the ingredients and you know what they are.
Melanie Jatsek is also the author of Missing Peace: Eleven Secrets to Restore Inner Harmony With Your Food, Body, and Health.