Ask the Dietitians

Which Ingredients Should I Avoid?

What are some common artificial food additives and preservatives I should watch out for on food labels to make sure that what I'm eating is clean?

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Packaged foods labeled “natural” or “healthy” may contain harmful chemicals that are often disguised under unrecognizable names. Top offenders include the preservatives BHA and BHT, potassium bromate (a chemical additive used to strengthen bread dough), food colorings such as blue 2, green 3, orange B and red 3, and artificial sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, ace-sulfame potassium and sorbitol. Items such as cereal, bread, gum, sugar-free beverages and vegetable oil are most likely to contain some of the above additives and preservatives.

If food comes in a box, bag, can, jar or bottle, make sure to be a label detective and be on the look out for these types of ingredients. And remember, if an ingredient name is hard to pronounce, then it’s likely not clean!

See The Six Not-So Superfoods To Nix Now to learn about more unhealthy ingredients to avoid.

Registered dietitians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Macdonald are the co-founders and creators of, a website dedicated to promoting wellness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.