Cooking from scratch is fine if you have the time and the interest, but if you don’t many of us turn to convenience foods. These pre-packaged foods can taste great, but how do we know if the amount of useful food in them is as great as their convenience and flavor? Looking at the number of proteins, carbohydrates, etc. listed on the label can be confusing. One simpler way to tell is by looking at the order of the ingredients as they appear in the list on the package. The order in which foods are listed on a package reflects their contribution by weight. The first ingredient listed has the greatest contribution by weight. The last ingredient listed has the least contribution by weight. If the second ingredient, for example, is corn syrup, then a significant portion of the food has little nutritional value.
Another clue is to look at the number of ingredients in a pre-packaged food. Five or fewer ingredients usually indicates that the food is less highly processed. This is a rule of thumb only, however. Trail mix, for instance, may contain more than five foods and still have little processing. However, we have to start somewhere. If cooking from fresh ingredients isn’t an option, reading labels is the next best guarantee of quality nutrition.