This past week I went to a talk by a personal trainer who saved his little brother’s life.

His little brother was 11 years old and on the verge of morbid obesity.

The personal trainer told us how he dropped everything and moved back home with his parents to help.

And week by week, his little brother started to lose weight. Finally, the trainer revealed the slide of the ‘after’ picture of a beautiful, healthy boy smiling and flexing his baby muscles for the camera.

“Want to know what I did to help my bother lose all that weight?” the personal trainer asked the room full of fitness professionals.

We leaned in, ready to take notes.

“….I cleared all the junk out of the house”.


No paleo-keto-one-weird-secret-that-doctors-don’t-want-you-to-know-about!?!?!

Um, no. He just cleared out the junk.


But I don’t eat junk, you say.

Of course not. Me neither.  We are the kind of consumer who reads food labels  – and blogs like this.


But here are some items that might have slipped your radar.

Because the unfortunate truth is that food that’s marketed to kids is often full of crap.



And when you are in a grocery store with kids, you don’t often have the luxury to scrutinize everything that goes in your cart.

(Anyone else ever ripped open a bag of Goldfish off the shelves to placate a toddler and  buy themselves time to find the organic yogurt before a full meltdown occurred?)

So don’t beat yourself up.

But in the interest of starting the school year with that new-pencil-case feeling of organization and best intentions, let’s do some Marie Kondo-style purging that will bring all kinds of joy.


Here’s what to ditch:


High Fructose Corn Syrup

Ok, you knew about this one but did you know it’s also now under the name ‘fructose’ or ‘corn syrup’?

What’s the big deal?

HFCS has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, increased belly fat, heart disease

Where to look in your kitchen:

  • Juice Cocktails.
  • Soda.
  • Breakfast Cereal.
  • Yogurt.
  • Salad Dressings.
  • Breads and Baked Goods.
  • Candy and Candy Bars.
  • Nutrition Bars.

You might have in your kitchen:



Instead, go for:


Trans Fats

Also listed as: Shortening, partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated, mono-, diglycerides, or DATEM

What’s the big deal?

Linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes

Where to look:

  • Deep fried foods (spring rolls, chicken nuggets, frozen hash browns, French fries)
  • Ready to eat frozen foods (quiche, burritos, pizza, pizza pockets, French fries, egg rolls, veggie and beef patties)
  • Hard (stick) margarine and shortening
  • Commercially baked goods (donuts, Danishes, cakes, pies)
  • Convenience foods (icing, puff pastry, taco shells, pie crusts, cake mixes)
  • Toaster pastries (waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches)
  • Oriental noodles
  • Snack puddings
  • Liquid coffee whiteners
  • Packaged salty snacks (microwave popcorn, chips, crackers)
  • Packaged sweet snacks (cookies, granola bars)

**important! Don’t believe labels that state No Trans Fat. Food companies are allowed to put that label if the amount of trans fat PER SERVING SIZE is low. If you make the serving size low enough (like, 1/2 an Oreo) – anything can be considered a neglible amount of trans fat and earn the label. Check your ingredient lists!***

You might have this in your freezer:



Instead, go for:




Also labeled as: yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, glutamic acid

What’s the big deal?

Although clinically found to be safe in moderate doses, many people will experience side effects including chest pain, heart palpitations, headaches. Stimulates taste buds causing us to eat more. Appears mostly in highly processed food we shouldn’t be eating anyway.

Where to look in your kitchen:

  • Potato chips
  • Frozen dinners,
  • Cold cuts,
  • Gravies
  • Ranch dressing
  • Salty flavored snacks
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Protein Powders
  • Popcorn
  • Soups

You might find you have:



Instead go for:




Artificial Colours

Note: In Canada, food labels don’t have to specify which colour is in the product. You’ll just see ‘colour’. If you are looking at American packaging, you’ll see things like “FD&C Blue No. 1”

What the big deal?

Linked to allergies, hyperactivity in children, worsening symptoms of ADD and ADHD

Where you might find them in your kitchen: (hint: not just found in neon coloured drinks and rainbow candies)

  • Macaroni and cheese boxed dinner (**2 cups of K.D. will give you 102 milligrams of artificial food dye in one sitting. YIKES! Go for Annie’s**)



  • Fruit juice
  • Sports drinks
  • Cereals
  • Baked goods
  • BBQ sauce and other sauces
  • Blueberry muffin mixes
  • Bread
  • Cake mixes
  • Cereal bars
  • Cheese
  • Cherry pie filling
  • Chicken-coating mixes
  • Children’s medications
  • Healthier-appearing whole-grain cereals with fruit
  • Horseradish
  • Ice cream
  • Ice cream cones
  • Imitation-chocolate sprinkles
  • Marmalade
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Mouthwashes
  • Mustard
  • Pasta mixes
  • Pickles
  • Potato-dish mixes
  • Rice mixes
  • Salad dressings
  • Toothpastes
  • Vitamins
  • Yogurt granola bars
  • Yogurts

You might have this:


Instead, get this:


Artificial Sweeteners

AKA: aspartame (Equal, Nutra-sweet), sucralose (Splenda) ace-k, saccharin (Sweet n’ low)

What’s the big deal?

Many artificial sweeteners are suspected carcinogens. PLUS – studies show they actually linked to weight gain. Aspartame in particular has been shown to effect nervous system and come with a whole host of nasty side effects.

  • Cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Bread (even stuff marked ‘whole wheat’)
  • Anything marked ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘sugar free’ or ‘low carb’
  • Granola bars
  • Pedialyte and kid’s medicines
  • Gum
  • Jam
  • Gatorade

You might find you have:


Instead, go for:1206w-ezekiel-english-muffins-x


AKA: TBHQ, Polysorbates 60, 65, 80, BHT/BHA, Nitrates/Nitrites, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sulfites

What’s the big deal?

Possible carcinogens, can cause allergic reactions.

Where to look in your kitchen

  • Cereals
  • Potato chips
  • Oils
  • Gum
  • Processed meats
  • Fresh meats
  • Baked goods
  • Dairy products

You might have:



Instead, choose:





If you’ve gone through your kitchen with this list in hand, I’m guessing you’ve tossed some crap – and learned more about food labeling and how it can be pretty deceptive.

Remember that you (and your kids) can’t eat crap if you don’t have it around.


If you are looking at an empty pantry right now, head over here about how to stock up your back to school pantry (on the cheap!) at Costco:



Did you find this post useful? If so, leave a comment about what you learned! And don’t forget to  share with your friends who might have a few nasty ingredients to ditch before the school year starts!