When I advise my clients about healthy eating plans, I emphasize eating “real food,” over packaged foods assembled in plants. Fresh food that grows in the ground or on trees is always healthier and more nutritious than processed food. But, I’m also a realist. Most of my weight loss clients like sweet or crunchy snacks and there’s nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence. Banning your favorite treats will only lead to binging on them later.

I have some good news on the health front for all you snack prone dieters out there. The food manufacturers have finally realized that many consumers read labels and feel better about buying products that don’t have a list of unpronounceable ingredients as long as a CVS receipt with five coupons.

A survey conducted by Packaged Foods, revealed that 87% of consumers read food labels and that 67% of them prefer products with “fewer and simpler ingredients.” Food manufacturers are now recognizing the marketing value of being able to brag that their products have only five ingredients or that they have no artificial ingredients.

“Food giants such as ConAgra and General Mills are winnowing their ingredient lists to as few elements as possible. Some snack bars boast they are just fruit. Tortilla chips are nothing more than corn, salt and sunflower oil.”

“Instead of burying ingredient lists in the fine print on the back of the package, food manufacturers are trumpeting simpler formulas prominently on the label’s front.”

Healthy Meal Plans Aren’t Easy in the Packaged Food Industry

Artificial ingredients are widely used because they serve the functions of increasing shelf life or contributing to the texture or color to make for an appetizing product. I learned this the hard way when I became a devotee of Ezekiel breads. That healthy bread doesn’t have any preservatives. The downside is that the bread gets moldy very quickly unless I freeze it.

It’s often no simple task to eliminate unhealthy ingredients. Here’s what happened when Hershey’s wanted to replace high fructose corn syrup with something healthier:

“High fructose corn syrup has long been a major ingredient in Hershey’s syrup. For its new Simply 5 formula, however, regular sugar alone didn’t work because of its tendency to produce a gritty texture, says Shawn Houser-Fedor, director of global snacks product development. Scientists considered brown rice syrup and even agave, but neither option offered the best flavor when combined with cocoa, she says.

The company finally combined cane sugar with an invert cane syrup, commonly used in food manufacturing, which is fructose and glucose dissolved in a liquid that helps ingredients retain their smoothness. Consumer panels of over 200 people found the syrup acceptable as a listed ingredient. A ‘sensory analysis’ group of about a dozen trained professional tasters also found the simplified formulation close in taste to the original, says Ms. Houser-Fedor.”

I expect this trend to continue as the food manufacturers respond to consumer demand.

Click here to read the full article on healthy eating plans with fewer ingredients.