Reading Nutrition Labels: The Basics

Reading Nutrition Labels: The Basics – know what you are putting into your body

 

 

  • Why Care?

    • Reading labels is a key tool to shifting your health in a positive direction
    • We want to fuel our bodies with the good stuff that gives us energy and vitality!  Not the icky chemicals and preservatives that slow us down and lead to disease
    • It’s the only way to know what is truly in your food and just how processed it is!  And, labels can be deceiving (more on that later) so education is KEY!
  • Where do I even start?

    • You are in the grocery store, trying to make the best choices for your family, BUT, its OVERWHELMING, right?!
    • With tips and practice, it gets much easier
    • The goal is to get out of the store with your sanity intact!
    • So,  have a game plan and know what you are looking for

 

  • Components of a nutrition label

    • Serving size

      • Very important because all nutritional facts hinge on this one thing
        • Calories

          • Daily needs vary and depend on age, gender, activity level
          • I find it best not to count calories for 3 reasons
            • It’s no fun!
            • Best to stop eating when you are full or satisfied
            • Not all calories are equal
          • This is the first thing many people look at but the number must be kept in context:  Some high calorie foods might be worth eating (even regularly) if they have the right nutrition profile (for example: 1 avocado = 322 calories, 1 chocolate covered donut at DD has 340 calories, both have around 20 grams) donut = 17 grams of sugar, avocado = 1 gm sugar
          • We want to fuel our bodies with nutrient dense food, not low calorie garbage!
        • Fat

          • Do not avoid these! Important for healthy cholesterol levels, decreasing inflammation in the body)
          • 3 types: trans fats (processed food, baked goods, no benefit, avoid at all cost), saturated fat (found in meat and dairy, limit to less than 20 gm per day), monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (olive oil, avocado, nuts, fish, consume mostly these)  The label will read Total fat, then saturated and trans.
          • Let’s talk more about trans fats – there is a 20% margin of error that is allowed by the FDA on nutrition labels.  If a label says 0 trans fats, it can still have up to 0.5 gms. Trace amounts can really add up if you are eating multiple servings per day.  So, you have to be smart and look in the ingredient list for words like partially hydrogenated oil and shortening
        • Cholesterol

          • Our bodies need to control hormones, brain health
          • Too much leads to heart disease, recommend <300 mg per day
        • Carbs

          • #1 source of energy, these do not need to be avoided.  We simply need to choose the right ones!
          • 2 types: Processed (simple) = used up quickly, spike blood sugar and leave you hungry.  Whole grain (complex) = more fiber, regulate blood sugar, stabilize energy and appetite
          • This is another reason that reading the ingredient label is so important. If the first word says “whole” it’s ok, if it says enriched or bleached it’s nothing more than a processed carb that will spike your sugar and will leave you hungry and unsatisfied.
        • Sugar

          • THE DEVIL
          • 2 types: Natural (fruit and dairy), added to change the taste (look for words like HFCS, corn syrup, sucrose, cane syrup, fructose)
          • What’s the recommended daily allowance?  Women 24 grams = 6 tsp, Men 36 grams = 9 tsp
          • Children 2-18 yo should be less than 25 grams, AHA is more vague on this
          • “Added Sugar” will be required on all food labels by 2018
        • Fiber

          • Important for healthy digestion and blood sugar control
          • 3 gm per serving is good
          • 25-35 gm per day
        • Protein

          • Important for muscle growth and repair
          • Adults need 0.8 gm protein per 1 pound of body weight
          • Kids require 1-1.5 grams of protein per every 2 pounds of body weight
        • Na

          • Hidden in everything!
          • Too much causes swelling, increased your risk for heart disease, leads to HTN
          • Limit to 2300 mg per day for adults.  If you have HTN, < 1500 mg per day
        • Percent daily value

          • How much is in one serving based on how much you need. Based on a 2000 calorie diet) 20% or more is considered high and 5% or less is considered low)
  • The highlights of the nutrition label really tell you little about what’s in the food!
  • The most important information on box of food is not in the nutrition label itself, its in the ingredient label!
    • Be a label detective!
    • This is where I scan first.  If I see unwanted ingredients, I’m done, it goes back on the shelf
    • When someone else makes your food, they have full control over what’s in it.  BUT, you have the ultimate power to decide whether or not to buy it!
    • All ingredients must be listed and are in descending order by weight.
    • The least amount of ingredients the better
  • Key it to have standards of what is acceptable to you and what is not.
    • Tips:  Look at what the first few ingredients are, avoid if they are sugar, enriched white flour
    • Avoid MSG, HFCS, flours that don’t have “whole” in front of them, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes
    • Just these few simple changes can really make a huge difference in you and your families health!
  • Tune in for future classes!

 

 

You may also like