Healthy Eating

Natural Health’s 2013 Good Food Award Rules

What to look for when you’re shopping for foods that come in a bag, a box or a jar.

Natural Health’s 2013 Good Food Award Rules
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It’s not so easy eating clean, after all. Our editors and food experts mowed through hundreds of entries for our awards for the healthiest and most delicious packaged products from your freezer, fridge and pantry (Read about our top winners in the March-April issue of Natural Health, on newsstands now). To judge the hundreds of products we received, we referred to the guidelines below, created by our panel of experts: Ashley Koff, R.D., celebrity dietitian in Los Angeles and founder of ashleykoffapproved.com; Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C.; and Sue Moores, R.D., a dietitian in St. Paul, Minn., and nutrition consultant for natural food markets. Print a wallet-size list at naturalhealthmag.com/foodrules.

1. The primary ingredients should be representative of the product nominated for the Good Food Awards. For example, the first ingredient listed on whole grain bread should be whole grain flour, not plain old flour.

2. Ingredients should be mostly recognizable as foods. The following additives are safe: acids (citric, sorbic, lactic); alginates; annatto; casein and lactose; gelatin; glycerin; lecithin; monoglycerides and diglycerides; natural flavorings; pectin; sorbitol; vanillin.

3. Ingredients should not include the following food additives: hydrogenated fats; artificial food colors; nitrites and nitrates; sulfites; artificial sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin); MSG; preservatives (BHA, BHT, EDTA, THBQ); artificial flavors; refined flour.

4. There should be reasonable amounts of sodium and sugars per serving. Actual numbers for sodium and sugars will vary greatly depending on the food category. For example, a soup with higher levels of sodium—but also loaded with whole ingredients and no artificial additives—might be a winner, provided you minimize your intake of other high-sodium foods.

5. There should be optimal amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients—depending on the food. For example, whole grain bread should have a good amount of fiber (5 to 7 grams is a good target); all yogurts should be high in calcium and protein.

6. Give kudos to companies for implementing eco-conscious practices. We also leaned towards products using organic Fair trade, compostable packaging—these mean positive things for your health and the environment.