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7 Ingredients Nutritionists Always Avoid

August 30, 2014

If you see these ingredients on a food’s label, stay far, far away from it.

By Robin Hilmantel, Women’s Health

The Federal government announced plans to redesign nutrition labels back in February—but the proposed changes (which would highlight the amount of added sugars and bring serving sizes more in line with the amounts that people actually eat) have yet to go into effect. Until then, it’s especially important to analyze the existing labels on your own—and one of the key sections is the ingredient list. “Labels can be very deceiving, so beware,” says Keri Glassman, R.D., a Women’s Health contributor. “Read them carefully.” These are the ingredients that nutritionists look out for the most—and almost always steer clear of.

RELATED: 11 Foods Nutritionists Always Keep In Their Refrigerators

Artificial Sweeteners
"Yes, artificial sweeteners are void of calories—but their negatives surely outweigh their ‘zero-calorie’ claim to fame.  The unfortunate truth is that these processed sweeteners have been linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and increased caloric intake throughout the day.Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are up to 700 times sweeter than natural sugar and only make you crave more, while loading you up with chemicals." —Keri Glassman, R.D., Women’s Health contributor

RELATED: Are No-Cal Sweeteners Making You Gain Weight?

"It’s a thickener that’s often found in dairy and milk products, and I’m not convinced on its safety yet. So until it’s proven safe, it’s something I avoid." —Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., founder of B Nutritious

Caramel Color
"Though the research revealing the potential carcinogenicity of caramel color was done using animals, I still think it’s better to play it safe and avoid any products with this ingredient." —Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY Show and Founder of NourishSnacks

Trans Fats
"These are artificial unsaturated fats that are added to processed foods to increase shelf life. Unfortunately, they also increase your risk for heart disease." —Michelle Davenport, Ph.D., R.D., a Silicon Valley nutritionist

MORE: 4 Surprising Sources of Trans Fats

"If it’s in the first three ingredients—in any form—I won’t buy the product." —Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., a wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
"I don’t love the very high sodium content that goes along with this ingredient." —Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet

MORE: 7 Ways Consuming Too Much Salt Affects Your Body

High-Fructose Corn Syrup
"High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a good indication that the food is highly processed with lots of added sugars. HFCS is not limited to sodas and sugary drinks, so don’t be fooled! HFCS is often in many multigrain breads, muffins, ketchup, and salad dressings." —Keri Glassman, R.D., Women’s Health contributor

More from Women’s Health:
The 5 Worst “Natural” Ingredients
Top Mistakes People Make When Avoiding Added Sugar
5 Fatty Foods That Make You Skinny