In the beginning, there was A LOT of reading labels to find products without a bunch of ingredients you can’t even hardly pronounce. Then there was the added sugar-it was crazy! If you’re just starting out, you’ll be amazed as you begin to read what goes into the food we eat. This is the second part of a two-part series. To read part one, go here!
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Have you ever taken the time to stop and read the labels on food? Be prepared to spend some extra time in the grocery store when you first start! The first several trips were frustrating because I just didn’t know what brands to buy and sometimes even the organic items had questionable ingredients. I mean what does “other natural flavors added” mean? What natural flavors?!
If you have the time to make it from scratch at home, that’s obviously the healthiest choice because you control exactly what goes into it. But with busy schedules, that’s not always an option!
I thought today I would share some of the brands I found with the fewest ingredients for frequent products we buy in case it might help save you some time reading labels as you embark on your healthier eating journey! Some of the items listed still have sugar in them (ex. the Simply lemonades) but have no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup.
Sour cream and cottage cheese: Daisy
Cream cheese: Philadelphia
Milk: Aldi just started offering organic grass-fed milk in their own brand, Simply Nature, and it’s fantastic!
Butter: Kerrygold Irish butter (because it comes from grass-fed cows and is antibiotic, hormone, and additive-free)
Cheese: We buy cheese in the block and shred it ourselves since they add extra stuff to packaged shredded cheese to keep it from caking. I also buy white cheddar cheese as much as possible since they add coloring (usually annatto) to make it orange.
Yogurt: We buy plain Greek yogurt and flavor it ourselves with organic honey or maple syrup. I used to by the vanilla flavored kind but they add a lot of junk to make it vanilla. We’ll also buy whole milk organic yogurt. It’s flavored with real vanilla. They’re both pretty easy to find in any brand, but I usually buy them at Aldi. Also great in smoothies!
Juices, Jellies, and Jams
The Simply line: Simply Orange Juice, apple juice, lemonades, etc.
Welch’s 100% Grape Juice and Natural Grape Jelly (I also buy jams and jellies from my local bread company that are sugar-free. They sweeten it with apple cider. But the hubby loves his Welch’s grape jelly!)
Bacon and hot dogs: Never Any, from Aldi, they’re free of nitrates and nitrites, minimally processed and have no artificial ingredients.
Chicken breasts or whole chickens: Never Any, from Aldi, also free from hormones and additives.
Spreads: Peanut Butter, Dressings, Condiments
Peanut butter is a big one. I didn’t realize how much junk they can put in peanut butter. Anything from sugar and molasses to vegetable oil. It only takes peanuts to make peanut butter. That’s it – just one ingredient. Our grocery store actually allows you to buy peanuts and grind them into peanut butter at the store! Aldi’s carries organic peanut butter that only has peanuts and salt as the ingredients. Another brand, Adam’s, is also only made with peanuts and salt. You can find it at Target.
Organic ketchup: I’ve purchased both Heinz and Aldi brands.
Other dressings and condiments: Primal Kitchen has a great variety of salad dressings and sauces without the extra junk, but they still have a lot of soybean oil. This is definitely one that would be better to make at home.
Mixes and flour: King Arthur has a delicious line of mixes called Essential Goodness. Their sour cream coffee cake mix is amazing if you don’t have time to make one from scratch, but don’t want artificial ingredients! Their whole line is pretty great. I use their unbleached all-purpose flour almost exclusively. We also like their Cloud 9 Pancake mix and their Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars. You can also order online which is convenient!
Sugar: We buy organic cane and brown sugar. Sugar, in general, doesn’t have much in the way of nutritional value, but cane sugar is less processed than the white refined sugar that’s more commonly used. You can find it in several brands in any grocery store.
Vanilla: Make sure you’re buying real vanilla and not the cheap imitation. It’s pricier but worth it. I purchase it at Aldi because it’s more reasonably priced.
Baking Powder: Rumford, they don’t add aluminum. There are more and more brands coming out without the added aluminum so if you can’t find Rumford, check the label.
Salt: Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt are better choices than table salt because they are less refined.
Bread was another surprise when I started reading labels. I used to by Sara Lee’s White Whole Wheat and thought I was doing really good until I actually read the list of ingredients. YIKES! When I read 100 Days of Real Food she mentioned that she bought her bread at Great Harvest Bread Company. They make a honey whole wheat bread with only 5 ingredients! So I looked it up and we actually had several in the area. We began purchasing all of our bread from there. They also made rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, and a variety of other delicious bread. They carried granola and jellies and jams without added sugar.
When we moved to a different state the closest Great Harvest was two hours away. I went online and searched for local bread companies and found another one just down the road from us called Big Sky Bread Company. They are very similar to Great Harvest and we’re able to purchase everything we need. So just search your area for local bread companies and check out their website for a list of ingredients.
I hope this post on reading labels has been helpful! It was a whole new world for me when we started this journey so if I can make it easier for someone else it was worth it! Please feel free to comment or ask questions below!