Food label literacy part 3: a deeper dive into oils, sweeteners, flavorings and gums

This is the third and final installment of  3 part series on food label literacy. Today I’ll list ingredients to look out for (and avoid) on your product labels.

Be choosy with your oils

In general, I recommend consumption of the following oils: extra virgin olive oil (for salads and on veggies, not for cooking), avocado oil (for cooking or on salads), coconut oil (cooking) and ghee (cooking). There are a few other oils that are safe for consumption but this short list should cover most of your cooking needs. If you are using prepared or packaged foods below are oils you will want to avoid.

Oils to avoid

  1. Hydrogenated oils (partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated) found in many restaurants, fast foods, fried foods and packaged foods like margarine, crackers, cookies, pastries, dressings and more.
  2. Certain vegetable oils: “vegetable” oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soy oil. Often found in restaurant foods, fast foods, packaged foods and condiments (like mayonnaise)

Run do not walk: MSG and MSG –like ingredients

I could write an entire book on flavor enhancers (and there are books out there on the subject such as Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell L. Blaylock). These ingredients are often in packaged and prepared foods like frozen dinners, spice mixes, soups, soup stock and boullion.

A short list of foods that ALWAYS contain MSG (when I see these I RUN screaming): Glutamate, glutamic acid, gelatin, Monosodium glutamate, Calcium caseinate, textured protein, sodium caseinate, yeast nutrient, yeast extract, yeast food, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein (or any protein that is hydrolyzed).

Proceed with caution – foods that often contain MSG: Carrageenan, Maltodextrin, Malt extract, Natural pork flavoring, Citric acid, Malt flavoring, Bouillon and broth,   Natural chicken flavoring, Soy protein isolate, Natural beef flavoring, Ultra-pasteurized foods, soy sauce, stock, barley malt, soy sauce extract, Whey protein concentrate, Pectin, Soy protein, Whey protein, Protease, Soy protein concentrate, Whey protein isolate, Protease enzymes Anything protein fortified, Flavors(s) and flavoring(s), Anything enzyme modified, Anything fermented, Natural flavor(s) and flavoring(s)  Enzymes anything, “Seasonings,” hydrolyzed pea protein. Low-fat/no-fat dairy products often include milk solids that contain MSG.


Sweeteners go by so many names and food manufacturers will sneak sweeteners into almost any kind of food (sugar in my hamburger!?). The best way to avoid sweeteners is to avoid any type of packaged foods but if you do buy packaged foods look out for the following:

Sweeteners: the bad…

Fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar (sucralose), honey, rice syrup, maltodrextrin, molasses, beet sugar, maltitol, glucose, agave, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate

…and even worse…

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse – we have artificial sweeteners. Like MSG, these are considered excitoxins and I advise avoiding these 100%: saccharin (Sweet’N Low), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda), sorbitol and Acesulfame K.

What about “safe” sweeteners

Sugar alcohols are what I normally advise my clients to use if they really need a sweetener. These include erythritol and monk fruit which come in various forms depending on your needs. Stevia, which is extracted from a plant, is also an option. More “natural” sugars such as maple syrup and honey may interfere with your weight loss efforts and are not advised for those who are diabetic. Read your labels so you can learn to avoid sweeteners and break free of your cravings!!

And, all gum and candy (except for 100% dark chocolate) have some kind of sweetener in them, oftentimes an artificial one.

Avoid food gums like xanthan and guar gums (you may disagree with me on this one)

Many milk alternatives (like coconut and almond milk) as well as other products like salad dressings, jams and jellies will often contain gums to make the product thicker. I usually tell my clients to avoid these foods (yes, there are some possible health benefits with guar gum but there are also negatives). Some of these gums include: xanthan gum, vegetable Gum, celluose gum, guar gum and locust bean gum.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post below.