How To Read Ingredients like a Pro - Veronica Toh
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How To Read Ingredients like a Pro

15 Aug How To Read Ingredients like a Pro

You pick up a box of cookies.


You think to yourself- REALLY?

And you flip over the box to glance through the back and sides.

Your eyes land on the food label.

What are maltodextrin, yeast extract anyway?

Food label offers lots of important information, but only if we know how to read them.

And really, how often do you scrutinize the ingredients?

Or are you like me, who easily falls prey into marketing gimmicks?

Today, you’ll be learning how to identify RED ALERT ingredients found in common food and becoming SMARTER in your food choices.

Here’s your detective’s guide:

SUGAR Added sugar comes in many forms. Because excessive sugar creates inflammation throughout the body giving rise to many health problems such as heart disease, depression and cancer. Other names to look out: fructose, sucrose, barley malt, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, aspartame, cane syrup etc.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Flavour enhancer which causes addictive eating and has been associated with nerve degeneration. Common names: yeast spice, yeast extract, whey protein concentrate.

VEGETABLE OIL– Most cooking oils (read more here) go through crazy amount of processing before they end up on the shelf.  Examples of unstable, rancid oils are safflower, sunflower, canola and corn oil. You’ll find it so hard to avoid them in processed food.

TRANS FAT– Look for ‘partially hydrogenated oil’. Hydrogenation turns liquid vegetable oils into solid at room temperature and increases shelf life. Worst kind of oil as it contributes to cardiovascular disease.

NATURAL FLAVOUR– Umbrella term for ingredients they’d rather not spell out on the ingredient list. For instance, monosodium glutamate (MSG), essential oils, fruit extracts or something as strange from anal glands of beavers. Luckily, not all “natural flavors” are dangerous. However if we don’t exactly know what it’s in, it’s safest to avoid them all.

Let’s Play: Guess the Products!


Product 1: With their loud claim ‘Baked Not Fried’, you’d naturally think that this is definitely healthier than anything else on the shelf. I was duped by their marketing strategy along the years! Until I checked out their ingredients.


Product 2: Let’s get the party started! Different yucky rancid oil used and did you spot MSG’s cousin name? Hint: W P C. Sneaky, isn’t it?


Product 3: MSG! Enough said. My hair is already falling. If its already made from fresh prawns, why the need to sprinkle seasoning powder and more MSG?


Product 4: Once You Pop, You Can’t Stop! Ever wonder why you can’t stop after eating one? It’s super ADDICTIVE because they’ve got powerhouse monosodium glutamate (MSG) to get you ADDICTED. Not only that, they’ve cleverly added in vegetable fat and sugar that give you the perfect mouthful taste to keep wanting for more.


Product 5: Ingredient list are listed by the highest to the lowest quantity. Looking at the first 3 ingredients, you can see that this is a sugary drink which throws your liver into frenzie, spiking your blood sugar unnecessarily.  Consume as part of healthy lifestyle? You’ve got to be kidding me with all those colouring and flavouring!  


Ready to Reveal the Products?!


Product 1: SHAPES used to be the favourite among bro and I.IMG_3873

Product 2: LAYS. Is this one of your favourite snacks?IMG_3878


Product 3: PRAWN CRACKERIMG_3880

Product 4: PRINGLES. Now you know why it is ‘Bursting with Flavours’!





Hope you had fun gaining knowledge in understanding what makes up these so-called food products.

The best way to avoid being duped by manufacturer’s marketing labels is obviously to avoid processed food altogether.

Does that mean no more fun treats anymore?

If you can, that’s perfect! You either have very strong will-power or live in an un-realistic world.

But for other people, it’s extremely difficult  to resist the temptation.

Hence, there’s a rule I made up for myself and clients.

That is only eat these on special occasion aka party, social gatherings and festive seasons.

In that way you’re neither deprived nor overindulging. 

Remember, the most important thing is what you eat on most days.

That is what matters most.

Go for whole food, because you don’t need an ingredient list to label your apple or kai lan. 



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