I’m often surprised to find that my “healthy” snacks and foods aren’t truly as healthy as they are advertised to be on the front side of the package. It’s important to be able to look at a nutrition facts label and know what you are really consuming. I’m even more often surprised by how many people I know that don’t know what they are really looking at when glancing at the side label.
Reading and UNDERSTANDING nutrition facts is an important component of a healthy eating lifestyle. So here are a few of the most basic and important things I think you should know about reading your nutrition facts labels.
The first thing you want to check is serving size. Know how much you’re eating. So many items (i.e. your light progresso canned soup) are meant to be eaten as one meal, yet the nutrition facts label breaks it down to 2 servings. So just know, your soup isn’t 100 calories; it’s 200 for the entire 2 servings can.
The calories number tells you how much energy you are getting from the food. The calories from fat tells you how much of it is fat. You don’t want a large portion of your calories (energy) to be fat.
The nutrients that you want to limit or avoid are fats, cholesterol, and sodium. These increase your risk for obesity, heart disease, some cancers, and high blood pressure.
Daily Value %: this is a percentage that is broken down for you to calculate how much of your daily recommended intake you’re getting in one serving. However, these numbers are based on a healthy 2,000 calorie diet. And I know that most of us that count calories have daily calorie goals below 2,000.
Quick rule of thumb, 5% is low, 20% or more is high. Aim for high numbers on the good nutrients, and low numbers on the nutrients you should limit or avoid.
How to decipher the “healthy” slogan labels on the front of the package:
Made with whole grains: a lot of people know whole grains as the “good carbs” so they reach for the “made with whole grains” loaf in the bread aisle. However, did u know that this really means nothing, unless it’s 100% whole grain? “Made with…” simply tells you there’s some in there.
Hidden Sugar: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrate are all forms of sugar in disguise on the ingredients list. Sometimes you see 2 or more of these on the list of ingredients, so combine them to really make note of how many of the ingredients are actually just processed sugars.
Made with real fruit: similar to “made with whole grains”, this doesn’t mean anything! Well at least it doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy, full of vitamins food item. Become familiar with how much of it really is fruit. Juice is one that always comes to mind for me on this one. Have you ever checked how much of your fruit juice is fruit vs sugar and water? Sadly, most juices only contain between 5-20 percent juice. Make note and maybe next time you will opt to pay the extra buck for the 100 percent juice to avoid all the processed sugary syrups.
I hope these basic tips and pointers are helpful! Maybe you learned a new thing or 2?