Become a food label detective

nutrition facs label

Become a food label detective

ben-jerry-dublin-mudslide-ice-cream-nutritionHi there my friends! As mentioned in previous blogs, the best way to start your path to wellness is to eat fresh unprocessed foods, meaning eat from the earth and not from packages. However, I am aware there are certain foods that will come in packages and we will continue buying them because they are convenient and also because they are part of what we know. So knowing this is going to be the case, let’s talk about the food label in packaging.

I know some people look at the label in the product, but do you actually understand what it says? This is very important because it provides the information you need to make an informed decision.

So let’s go over the label

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So if you see sugar on the top, for example, put it back on the shelf. There are at least 61 names for sugar used in food labels and many times there are quite a few in one product. If you want to see the list, click here. Another clue is, if you can’t pronounce the word, it is not safe for you so don’t eat it.
  • Avoid partially hydrogenated fats which are also known as trans fats. They are chemically processed, which raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL). Normally you can find them in bacon, ham, sausages, frozen foods and some can foods.
  • Salt (made of sodium 40% and chloride 60%) is in many foods and we tend to add more before eating it. Look for foods that have no added sodium and if you do, choose those labeled “sodium free”, which have less than 5g in a serving or “low sodium” which have less than 140g per serving. For your reference, 1500 mg of sodium amounts to 0.75 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day. This amount is the ideal limit for most adults. Check this link for more information.
  • Be aware of marketing tactics. In the United States, for example, the use of the word “natural” to describe human food products is not strictly defined by the FDA. Many foods can have this word in the package but there is nothing natural in them. So again, check the ingredients to see the details.

And if you eat two servings, multiply x 2 the quantities of the ingredient. I don’t expect that you carry a calculator to see how much of this or that you are eating, my point is to be mindful of the servings. Because when you multiply that for x 3 meals a day x week x month x year…it all adds up.

Other points to consider:

  • Some canned foods are healthy options: legumes are good examples. If you don’t have the time to cook or soak beans overnight, canned legumes are a great second best option. Just make sure they are low in sodium (or salt) and there are no added ingredients.
  • Yogurt is not meant to be sweet so to really get the benefits avoid buying sweet yogurt. If you want to add sweetness to it, you can find healthier options such as raw honey, stevia or agave nectar. Also, do not assume that because they are natural sweeteners they don’t add calories! If you are looking to keep your weight down, be aware of the amounts you are consuming.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends:

Daily added sugar limits:
Women: 6 tsp (25 g)
Men: 9 tsp (38g)
Children 3-6 tsp (12-25g)

Be aware that I am not even discussing calories here, my main point is the ingredients.  So be a detective! Remember that you are in control, you are the best person to look after yourself.
In my next blog, I will show a video about how to best understand food labeling, so keep an eye on it. (Next week)

Thank you for reading this blog and as always if you are learning something new, don’t forget to share. Everything I share with you is with love and dedication hoping to guide you in your path to become a healthier happier YOU.

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