Even the most savvy consumers can quickly become confused when casting a critical eye on the ingredients list. What are modified milk ingredients or natural butter cheddar flavours or cellulose gums? Are there any health concerns about the use of food colouring Yellow #5? And how does ultra-filtered milk differ from regular milk?

In a bid to clarify a few mystifying ingredients, we've looked at the ingredients list for chocolate milk, pudding, granola bars, orange juice and macaroni and cheese and produced explainers for each item.

Read on for explainers, regulations and recent research.

Maple Leaf Cooked Ham


Cured meat from a pig. The Canadian Food and Drug Regulations define meat as "the edible part of the skeletal muscle of an animal that was healthy at the time of slaughter, or muscle that is found in the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus, and may contain accompanying and overlying fat together with the portions of bone, skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels that normally accompany the muscle tissue and are not separated from it in the process of dressing, but does not include muscle found in the lips, snout, scalp or ears."

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Chocolate Pudding

There's no doubt that desserts are popular with most kids. When it comes to the lunch that kids take to school, pre-packaged desserts are quick and easy — which isn't necessarily a bad thing. And they are an easy trading favourite in the lunchroom or the schoolyard.

There are choices in pre-packaged desserts, and if you pay attention to the nutrition labels, you can find nutritious options. The list of ingredients, however, may leave you scratching your head.

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Orange juice

Canadians consume far less orange juice than beer or soft drinks, but among fruit juices, the squeezed citrus is king.

Average annual OJ intake is about 12.5 litres — twice as much as apple juice, but six times less than lager.

Before dispensing a box a day of OJ into your own or your child's lunch box, however, consider that the ubiquitous drink, while generally healthy, has a lot more to it than you might think.

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Chef Boyardee Mac & Cheese

Putting together a decent lunch for school or work can leave many of us a little exasperated. Maybe you're not fond of leftovers in your lunch bag. Perhaps you've taken one trip too many to the food court.

Could be that most of us are too pressed for time to put together a fresh lunch. So we resort to the quick and easy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

There's a lot more choice in pre-packaged foods now, and if you pay attention to the nutrition labels, you can find nutritious options.

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Chocolate milk

Consider the label before chugging that next glass of sweet chocolate milk.

What are carrageenan or palmitate? Do you know what the term "modified milk ingredients" means and why they are used?

And is your carton in fact labelled "milk," or the perplexing "dairy beverage"?

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