We are what we eat. So, if what we eat comes in a box or bag then it is our job to know what's in it before we purchase it and especially before we put it in our bodies right? It takes 30 seconds to read a food label and 30 seconds to learn what a product is made up of. It is possible to eat clean and eat out of a box but we have to be careful and make sure we read every ingredient.
Ideally we would stick to food without a label. Think along the lines of fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, fresh meat and fish. Sometimes though, that just isn't practical. If we do find that we need to purchase food that comes packaged then then the goal is to buy the product with the fewest ingredients possible. Five or less ingredients listed on the packaging is what I typically recommend.
Now keep in mind that all of the ingredients listed should be easily recognizable and simple to pronunciate. Also, remember that food is listed by weight on an ingredient label. That means that the the first ingredient listed is what the food is mostly made out of. Now without getting too complicated here, after reading through the ingredients label the first thing I check is the sodium content which we should keep under 2300 mg a day. Second I check the added refined sugar content. I recommend keeping our refined sugar intake (not natural sugar from fruits, honey and other natural sources) under 25 mg a day. Third, I glance at the fat intake. This is not because I am scared of fat by any means but instead because I want to know what kind of fat the product contains.
For instance, the "total fat" really doesn't tell us much because there are four different types of fat: saturated (mostly from animal proucts), trans fat (chemically altered oils that give a food a longer shelf life), and monounsaturated (aka MUFAS) and polyunsatured fats (aka PUFAS). The goal is to keep saturated fat (aside from the kind derived from palm and coconut oil) and trans fat as low as possible. Ideally, we want the fat to come from mono and polyunsaturated fat sources because these are the type our body craves and benefits from so much. They lower our unhealthy LDL cholesterol and raise our healthy HDL cholesterol and also fuel our brains and helps burn belly fat and more. So again, don't run from fat! It is the type of fat that really matters.
If you didn't yet notice, I will go ahead and point out that I did not run first to checking the calorie content. Why is this? Because frankly I care more about what those calories are made up of. I know that if it is food beneficial to my health then my body can use it and burn it efficiently. Calorie counting is no longer a habit of mine. It's all about the quality and what makes up the food that really matters the most to me.
I could write for hours on this topic because I know how important it is but I will just end it here on this note. If we are going to purchase or consume any food with a label it is OUR job to research it ahead of time to know what is in it. You may be shocked to find that another brand has way fewer and cleaner ingredients than a more popular brand. So, do your research on all of your favorite foods. Be conscientious of what goes into your body every single day and it will thank you in return.