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How to Understand Whole Food Nutrition on Food Labels

Strawberries with nutrition facts

I first stumbled upon My Whole Food Life by accident and somehow ended up on the “Processed Foods Exposed” section of the website, where blogger Melissa King gives her readers the real scoop on numerous packaged foods they probably think are healthy.

The “Processed Foods Exposed” section immediately hit home with me because it focused on the Ingredients as opposed to the Nutrition Facts. Many people who try to adopt a healthier way of eating do not realize that the Nutrition Facts are completely misleading.

One of the most important things we try to get across in our Clean Cuisine book is that when it comes to embracing whole food nutrition and trying to buy packaged foods that are truly healthy, the ingredients on the foods you buy matter far more than the Nutrition Facts. In fact, The Nutrition Facts are pretty much meaningless because they tell you absolutely nothing about the intrinsic health and nutrition properties of the food.

Take Kashi for example, most people associate the Kashi brand as a healthy one, but Melissa from spotlights the ingredients on her website, which should make you think twice…

Kashi Exposed

Check out the ingredients in Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes with Blueberry Clusters cereal below and see if you think this looks like a healthy choice?

Closer look at Kashi Nutrition

Melissa said she used to buy Kashi all of the time because she believed the health claims on the box and thought it was a good choice for her family. That is, until she started looking at the ingredients! Melissa notes, “There are 4 different types of sugar in this. One thing that was surprising to me was that Kashi is owned by Kellogg. Kellogg spent a lot of money fighting against Prop 37 in California. If their products were so healthy, then why would they be concerned about GMO labeling? It just sounds fishy to me so I will not eat this brand of cereal ever again.”

Kashi Heart to Heart Label

Good Whole Foods Nutrition Starts with Wholesome Ingredients

The Kashi cereal is clearly not a nutrient-dense choice when you look at the ingredients list and see how much sugar it contains, but the problem is if you were to rely on the Nutrition Facts for guidance you could easily be fooled into thinking this cereal is a low-fat, fiber-rich choice with a decent amount of plant protein (6 grams) per serving. And the marketing certainly doesn’t hurt! Go to the Kashi website and below is what you will find their marketing team came up with:

When your body and mouth both agree that it’s love, you know you’re on the right track, so treat your heart right with the ingredients in Heart to Heart® cereal.

  • Support Healthy Cholesterol—1g soluble fiber from oats*
  • Promote Healthy Blood Pressure—low sodium**
  • More For You—each serving is high in antioxidant vitamins C and E. Plus, you’ll get 100% Daily Value of heart healthy vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid.

Faulty Nutrition Facts

Another reason to rely on the ingredients list over the Nutrition Facts has to do with simplicity — understanding the ingredients on a label is pretty straightforward, understanding the Nutrition Facts is not. In fact, the Nutrition Facts is so difficult to interpret that the FDA publishes a 10-page-long, color-coded, and awfully complex guide that is supposed to help the public make smart choices. It’s not working. The truth is, the Nutrition Facts label does not echo superior nutrition; rather it is a reflection of what various government entities have agreed to say to keep the big food companies happy. The Nutrition Facts is influenced by forces other than science and tells you absolutely nothing about whole food nutrition and whether or not the food is truly healthy.

To read more about faulty nutrition facts click HERE and then head on over to and click on the “Processed Foods Exposed” section to see the ingredients in foods you might think are healthy — such as Fiber One Cereal, Nutri Grain, Boca Burgers, and many more. The ingredients list will surprise you!

Melissa’s Whole Food Life

Like me, Melissa has a story and she is also a busy mom trying to feed her husband and two daughters as healthfully as she can. Knowing what to eat and putting that knowledge into practice every single day are two very different things and the fact of the matter is that life can often get in the way of living healthfully. But Melissa has made the commitment that nutrition is going to be a priority in her family’s life, so I thought she could share some “real world” tips with Clean Cuisine readers. Here is what she had to say when I interviewed her….

Ivy: Are there any nationally distributed packaged foods that your family really likes that are made with truly wholesome ingredients?

Melissa: Yes! There are a few I can feel good about buying. We love Mary’s Gone Crackers, Nature’s Path cereals, Eden Foods Soba Noodles, Food for Life breads and Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes.

Ivy: Because you and your family are committed to a whole food lifestyle, do you think you spend more money or less money than the typical family on groceries? Do you have any money saving tips for buying healthful whole foods on a budget?

Melissa: We make food a priority so we do spend a bit more. We are able to do that by cutting costs elsewhere. We rarely eat out and buy second hand clothes for our girls. There are some things you can do to save here and there such as contributing to a co-op, buying out of bulk bins, stocking up when things are on sale, shopping with a list, buying produce in season and meal planning.

Ivy: One of the most difficult aspects of sticking to a whole food diet is the time it takes to research, create menus, shop, prepare and cook all the food! Do you have any favorite cookbooks with super healthy (and tasty!) whole food recipes? What about meal prep shortcuts? Any tips?

Melissa: I am embarrassed to say that I actually don’t own any cookbooks. However, I do read several food blogs and also scan Pinterest for recipes as well. But, there are definitely things you can do to make things quicker in the kitchen! For starters, get to know and love your crock pot! I am always cooking something in mine. It’s so easy and you don’t even have to be home. The rice cooker is another big time saver. Often, I have something in the crock pot, on the stove and in the oven so I can get most of the cooking out of the way on one day over the weekend. That way, I can relax during the week.

Ivy: What is your go-to dinner when you are super crunched for time?

Melissa: Stir fry. I can whip one up pretty quick and there is no recipe needed. It’s also one of the ways I try to use produce that is about to go bad.

Ivy: There is nothing I hate more than being hungry and not having a healthy option readily available, so I always have an emergency LaraBar stashed in my purse at all times. Do you have a favorite emergency food?

Melissa: Yes. I usually have almonds or a banana in my purse.

Ivy: What did you eat yesterday?

Melissa: For breakfast, I had a strawberry banana green smoothie. For lunch, I ate a few sweet potato burgers (minus the buns) topped with avocado and some carrot sticks. Dessert was an orange. For dinner, I had some stir fried rice with cashews. In between I snacked on some crackers and red bell peppers. I try to eat my largest meal for breakfast and smallest for dinner.

Ivy: I have a major sweet tooth and I am always looking for new healthy sweet treat ideas — do you have a favorite whole food dessert you can share?

Melissa: I have a huge sweet tooth as well! Sometimes, some super sweet and juicy diced pineapple does the trick. I also love stuffing a date full of almond butter. One of my favorite things to do is blend up a frozen banana with some almond butter. It really feels like ice cream! I do that at least a few times a week.

For more information visit Melissa at

Ivy Larson

In 2010, Clean Cuisine was launched because Ivy Larson wanted to share her anti-inflammatory lifestyle and delicious recipes using ingredients in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. In 2020, Ivy passed the website to Aimee and Madison. Since then, they have been adding new recipes and nutrition posts while updating old recipes and articles. Thanks for visiting Clean Cuisine!

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