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Avoiding Nutritional Landmines

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

This blog is a recap of a recent lunch and learn workshop with Dr. Melissa Mauro and Ellen Petrosino, RDN at Living Plate in Far Hills, NJ , February 1, 2019.

Peek into a typical shopping cart and chances are you’ll find milk, eggs, bread, acesulfame potassium, tartrazine, maltodextrin along with a little red# 3, and yellow #6 thrown in.

Wait...this is starting to sound more like a chemistry lab than food shopping.

Unpronounceable, and unrecognizable as food, these ingredients are added to processed foods to amp up flavor, add texture, and maximize shelf life, and “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) by the FDA - these ingredients may not be as innocuous as you may think.

Artificial Sweeteners: Acesulfame, Aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose or brand names such as Equal, NutraSweet, Spenda, and Sweet ‘ Low can be found in “diet”, or “sugar free” foods. These lab-made sweeteners have been linked to an increased risk of obesity, cancer, and a decreased insulin sensitivity (a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes).

Artificial Colors: Red # 40, and Blue# 1 and Tartrazine (Yellow #4), have been linked to an increased risk of ADHD/ADD, allergic reactions and food sensitivities. Used to imitate bright, rich colors found in whole foods, these dyes are often in foods that are marketed to children like sport recovery drinks, fruity drinks, ice-pops, cereals, and candies .

Thickeners: Maltodextrin and modified corn starch are additives to improve consistency of creamy drinks, soups, gravies, and more. They are linked to intestinal inflammation and have been implicated in the rise of irritable bowel disease.

Preservatives: Added to acidic foods such as soda, bottled lemon juice, pickles, jelly, salad dressing, and other condiments to prolong shelf-life, Benzoate and Sorbate have been identified as possible carcinogens, linked to DNA damage and may increase the risk of food allergies and sensitivities.

Pretty scary stuff right?

The good news is that there are simple steps to reducing your intake of food additives and preservatives, and ADDing real food back into your grocery cart.

  • ADD more foods without labels! Whole foods don't have the packaging to boast their health properties -add more of your favorites like apples, blueberries, red peppers, carrots... to your cart.

  • Avoid the center aisles in the supermarket.

  • Picking up a packaged food? Before you add it to your cart, check the ingredients.

  • If it has 5 -7 ingredients that you can pronounce - go ahead and add it to your cart.

  • Don’t recognize and can’t pronounce the ingredients? Rethink your choice.

  • Cook more! Pick just one of these easy (and delicious) recipes to try this week. Each recipe features ingredients that support your body’s natural ability to detoxify unwanted chemicals and additives in your everyday.

  • Golden Coconut Turmeric Smoothie

  • Asian Chicken Vegetable Salad

  • Flourless Chocolate Almond Butter Mini-Muffins


Sign up for a FREE trial of my meal plans to access more recipes and tips like these or contact me to learn more about building a health-supporting, plant-focused plate.


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