How many of you know what you are looking at when you read nutrition labels on the foods that you buy? Have you ever wondered what some of the items or numbers mean? Have you often said to yourself, I can’t even pronounce some of these words! Food labels can be tricky because sometimes that’s what companies are trying to do in order to make their product more appealing. Here’s my top 10 list (plus 1) of what I look at when I am at the supermarket:
The Ingredient List – find and read the ingredient list. What you want to pay attention to is the order in which the ingredients are listed. Ingredients on packaged food must be listed in order of weight. Some of you may be aware that a trick that manufacturers use is to use 2 – 4 (or more) very similar ingredients with different names, thereby allowing them to be placed lower on the list than if a single ingredient were used. Can you guess what the most common ingredient is that manufacturers do this with? You guessed it sugar! Sugar is also known as: dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, invert sugar, agave syrup, corn sugar, and the list goes on! So be weary of the ingredient list and the order in which they are listed. If you don’t like what you see, put it back on the shelf!
Serving Size – next you want to look at the serving size. The serving size can be deceiving when you are looking at packaged food. Generally, we want to be able to have a larger serving size so ensure you check this out.
Calories – check out the number of calories that are in a serving size. For some this may be where they stop depending on what they are looking for.
Fat – look at the types of fat in the product. The type of fat is far more important than the amount of fat that is found in a particular product. Saturated fats are not as “bad” as long as they are not trans, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. For those that don’t know, we do require fats in our diet in order to lose body fat!
Cholesterol – you can basically ignore this information because cholesterol is not harmful unless it is oxidized (and the label will not give you that information)
Sodium – sodium gets a bad rap for being the cause of high blood pressure. This information is pretty useless unless someone has a sodium sensitivity. Unless you are one of the few who have an excess of sodium, we need not be concerned with this number.
Carbohydrates – these are not the enemy, in fact, we need carbs for brain function, mood and energy. Aim for 30 grams per meal and 30-40% of your daily calories. Again, this is where you want to ensure you know the serving size.
Fiber – in general, the more fiber, the better. This is actually listed under the carbohydrate section but it really shouldn’t be. We generally do not get enough fiber in our diets.
Sugars – as mentioned it comes in many different terms. We always want to aim to keep this number as low as possible. Go for single digits per serving size.
Proteins – this is a very important number to look at. We all know that protein is the most important macronutrient and we want to aim for about 20-30 grams per meal so that we can properly digest it. The more sugar we consume at the same meal with protein, the more difficult it can be to digest the protein. We want to ensure that we are able to digest the protein first and foremost as it is what will help keep us satiated.
And the bonus number 11, vitamins and minerals – in most cases, the amounts provided are negligible. Unfortunately, because our soil has been depleted, in many cases the food simply does not have the level of nutrients it once had. This is where nutrition supplementation comes into play, which I will discuss in my next blog!
So the next time you are at the supermarket, take a look at the food labels on the packaged food items you buy, you may rethink what you put in your cart!
Cheers to your health!