How to Read Nutrition Labels

Posted by Mrs Money on April 8th, 2010


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Creative Commons License photo credit: sylvar

One of the most important things in living a frugal and green life is reading labels. Whether it’s food, cleaning products, or body care products, I think it’s important to know what a product’s ingredients are before purchasing. By taking a few minutes to read your labels, you can help keep yourself and your family happy and healthy. I’m going to share a few tips that I follow when shopping. Of course, something else may work better for you. That’s up to you to decide. 🙂

Nutrition Labels for Food

When reading nutrition labels, I believe that the shorter the ingredient list, the better. Of course, the best food to eat is something that is grown in the ground (like an apple- it only has one ingredient!), but if you’re buying bread, make sure that you know what’s in it.

Some of the ingredients I try to avoid: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), MSG, soy, hydrogenated oils, white flour, “natural flavors” and anything I can’t pronounce that doesn’t appear in nature.

Ingredient Lists

When buying cleaning products or beauty products, there are a few rules of thumb that I follow. Of course, making your own is the preference, but if you don’t have the time, that’s understandable. All natural cleaners like Mrs. Meyer’s and bath products like Aubrey Organics are a couple of my favorites.

Some of the ingredients I try to avoid are sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS), any type of lauryl/laureth sulfates, parabens, and anything that ends in -cone(s)

Are you a label reader? What are some things you try to avoid?

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18 Responses to “How to Read Nutrition Labels”

  1. I make a lot of my own food from scratch and it usually contains no more than 3-5 ingredients–unless it’s something complex or spicy 😉

    I just read In Defense of Food this winter and basically the author argues against eating anything you can’t identify, don’t recognize or can’t pronounce. That’s just about how I feel. I ate fake (ie, not hom made) tortillas the other day and they tasted funny to me. I’m done with processed foods.

    And in the cosmetics department, the only thing manufactured I still use is soap–eventually I intend to learn to make that too. . .

    PS–I tried a variant of your deodorant recipe–it is awesome! The best deodorant I’ve ever used. now I just need to get an old deodorant dispenser for easier application . . .


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Simple in France- I agree about the tortillas. They are pretty gross from the store! 🙂 I’ll help you with the soap making if you ever try it!

    I am so glad you tried it out and it worked! Thanks for letting me know!


  2. Fresh ingredients like fresh fruits, veggie, fish, and meat are healthier than any processed foods. I still eat processed foods though; in moderation. Reading the list of ingredients, like you said, is a good way of understanding and knowing what you have purchased.

    Some people do not make their own cleaning/beauty products because they don’t want to (not because there’s no time to). It is a personal/lifestyle choice. I respect other people’s decision to make their own cleaning products; at the same time, others should respect mine for the choices I make. ~just thoughts…


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Random Thoughts- I agree. I think the 80/20 rule is a good rule to follow… 80% of the time eating well. 🙂

    I agree with you- I think it’s important to respect whatever decisions people make. I think if it works for them and makes them happy, that’s perfect! 🙂


  3. We have begun reading the ingredients on EVERYTHING. Gluten and soy are what we avoid due to food allergies. We have to check spices, drinks,…everything. We do try to make a lot from scratch and also avoid many of the same things in your list.


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Laura- I agree. Soy is like in EVERYTHING. It’s crazy! And I think I feel better when I avoid gluten too.


  4. Laura says:

    I avoid soy because I am mildly allergic to it. I try to make as much from scratch as I can to avoid food additives (and save money), but we do eat some processed foods. It’s very difficult to avoid everything, because I simply don’t have time to make every single thing from scratch.


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Laura- I am sorry you are allergic to soy, but that’s probably a blessing in disguise. 🙂 We do eat some processed foods too, because I think we’d go crazy if we had to make everything from scratch! 🙂


  5. I definitely read my labels! In fact, I am sick today and re-hydrating with gatorade, which happens about once per year, but was happy to see they use plain old sugar instead of HFCS to sweeten their drinks.
    I just did a post on common household items to use for cleaning the bathroom, and try to make as much of my own stuff when I can. Recently I’ve tried making granola & jam, but know that there are always times when I need to rush out to the store and buy something in a pinch. Luckily Seattle has great healthy, organic, natural options for me to choose from!


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Chloe- They do?! They used to use HFCS and I didn’t like that. I loooove Gatorade!

    You are lucky you live in Seattle! There are a lot of healthy people there. 🙂


  6. Heather says:

    We’re doing moderately well at avoiding food with labels at all. I avoid HFCS, white flour, and anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated anything. I also avoid canned foods and plastics as much as possible.


    Mrs Money Reply:

    Heather- Canned foods are a good point too. Who knows if there is BPA in them? I forgot about that. Thanks for mentioning!


  7. akborn says:

    I try to read labels- but truthfully I am horrible at it 🙁
    I know being here in alaska has its down side, as winters there is NO locally grown fresh food- and what is fresh is brought in, and alot of times heavily treated, and so I tend to get frozen veggies.
    I grew up on probably the worse diet known(very processed and canned junk), but it was cheap, easy to travel with(we lived over 200 miles one way to the nearest store, which was a 6-8 hr drive, and 75 one to the nearest mail), so bought inbulk as you can see, and so I was “trained” in how I eat. and only in the last few years(having a kiddo has pushed me) have a tried to be more careful, and see what I put into our bodies.
    I know what of the big things I watch for, (for my kiddo) is watch for sugars, and avoid it the best I can, as hes kind of a hyper little bug 🙂


  8. We are/were awful…no label reading and tons of processed foods. But we’ve tried cooking at home in 2010 and have successfully cut back eating out from 5-6 times a week to 1 or 2 at the most.

    By cooking at home, we also eat less processed stuff…we buy large packs of beef, chicken, and pork from Sam’s Club and use potatoes, carrots, corn, and green beans as sides 80% of the time.

    Still not super healthy, but way better. 🙂



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    Welcome! I'm Mrs. Money and I lead a frugal, simple, and debt free life on a modest income. I make money online to help support our family. I believe in saving money, living green, and enjoying life!

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