What is the first thing you look for when reading food labels?
Is it the calorie content? Calories do matter, but they are not enough for making smart food choices. You also need to check the macros as well as the vitamins, minerals, and amount of fiber.
Don’t forget about the ingredients used! Just because your favorite snacks have under 50 calories per serving, it does not mean they’re healthy.
Why Is It Important to Read Food Labels?
Food labels provide information on the ingredients added to each product. They also display the amount of protein, carbs, and fats as well as micro nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Knowing these things will make it easier for you to compare foods and choose those that fit into your healthy eating plan.
Most packaged foods have labels. Fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, do not require a label. However, you can go online to check their nutritional value. Ideally, your healthy eating plan should include plenty of foods without a label. This means they have no added sugars, preservatives, sodium, or unnecessary ingredients.
Unless you’re eating 100 percent raw, you will still need to purchase packaged foods. For instance, canned beans, nut mixes, dried fruit, and almond milk have labels that show the ingredients used. A bag of whole grains may contain wheat, oats, raisins, dried cranberry, and rye. If you’re allergic to gluten, it is crucial to avoid wheat. Thus, it makes sense to read the labels.
Get the Facts on Food Labels
First, check the serving size and the nutritional info for a single serving. Packaged foods usually contain multiple servings. If you choose a food with 600 calories per serving, that’s about one-quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult.
Next, look at the amount of carbs, protein, and fats in each product.
Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, simple sugars, and trans fats.
If you are trying to lose weight, you may want more high-protein foods and fewer carbs.
Check the label for additives, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and synthetic coloring.
Be aware that food ingredients are listed in order by weight. Here’s an example of a product label I discovered recently in the dairy section. The first ingredient listed was “imitation salad cheese”. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
The list of ingredients was about two inches long… which raises red flags immediately. Hydrogenated vegetable fat, as well as additives, high fructose corn syrup and dyes, were also listed although the nutritional label showed “zero” trans fats. How can that be?
We can make heart-healthy diet choices if we know how much “bad” fat is lurking in foods. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring manufacturers of foods and some dietary supplements to list trans fats on the Food Labels.
According to this report, trans fats will be listed under Nutrition Facts on a separate line immediately under “saturated fats.” Only foods and supplements that contain 0.5g or more of trans fat per serving will be required to list them on the label.
What’s your best option?
Stick to a short ingredient list that you can recognize. Watch out for hidden unhealthy fats and sugars, such as fructose, glucose, mannitol, high fructose corn syrup and dextrose… to name a few. Look for foods with higher levels of fiber and protein. Ditch those that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium as they put you at risk for chronic diseases.
Now that you are more familiar with checking out those food labels, GO grocery shopping and then prepare a clean healthy meal!
Try this quick and easy delicious recipe:
Creamy Strawberry Oats + Chia Seeds – 2 Servings
3/4 cup strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp honey or liquid stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp chia seeds
In a large bowl or Mason jar, combine all ingredients except for the strawberries.
Stir well until creamy.
Add the strawberries and then refrigerate for at least four hours.
Top with shredded coconut, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, or fresh fruit and