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Ask Dr. Nandi: Do you know what’s in your child’s food?

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 19:50:46-05

(WXYZ) — With all the different food label claims, how do you know what’s really in the foods that you’re feeding your family?

Grocery shopping can be confusing because there are so many food-labeling terms. You know what I’m talking about, ‘low calorie,’ ‘low sugar,’ and ‘reduced fat’.

While they do sound enticing, do these labeling terms really mean that the food is healthier? Or is it a marketing ploy to get you to buy?

Well, let’s look at products that say low sugar or reduced sugar. That likely means the manufacturer reduced the amount of table sugar and replaced it with non-nutritive sweeteners. These usually have very little calories and keep the food tasting sweet.

Now the problem is that research is still unclear if artificial sweeteners are good or bad for us. And food companies don’t have to tell us how much they're adding to the product.

So that is concerning for me because children today are consuming more of these sweeteners than ever before. And if you have kids like I do, you know once they taste something super sweet, they’re just going to want more of it.

So what’s important here is not those fancy marketing terms, but rather what’s written on the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list. That’s right, if you want to understand what’s in your food, you need to read the actual food label.

Here’s what I want you to be aware of:

  1. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient or recognize what it is, chances are it’s a chemical or it’s been highly manufactured.
  2. The order of the ingredients is important. They are listed in order of quantity in descending order. So what’s listed first will have the highest weight.
  3. Know that sugar has many names and might be listed twice. Watch for terms like corn syrup, agave nectar, barley malt syrup or dehydrated cane juice.

Lastly, my personal recommendation is to skip or cut back on processed foods. Instead, choose foods as close to their natural form as possible. Whole natural fresh foods are packed with nutrients and there’s no ingredient list that you have to decipher.