Have you ever picked up a box of treats in the grocery store and looked at the food label? Perhaps you read a couple of the fancy terms and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.
You can understand exactly what you’re eating by discovering the “secrets” of food labels.
Breaking It Down
First off, all the percent values you see here are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. If you’re a bodybuilder or power-lifter, you may have higher demands. Likewise, young children have much lower calorie requirements.
Contrary to popular belief, calories are not bad. Calories are the measure of energy your body will receive from the food you eat. Fats provide far more calories (and energy) than proteins and carbs, which is why nuts have more calories than chicken.
If you’re trying to reduce calories, you can use this section to count your calories per serving, but understand that not all calories are made the same.
Fat sections are broken down into saturated and trans fats. Most dieticians agree that you should limit both of these types of fats.
High Saturated Fat Foods include beef, pork, and processed meats.
High Trans Fat Foods include some processed desserts like doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins.
There really is no need to have excessive amounts of sodium in your diet.
The only time you should look to have some sodium in your diet is after a workout, as you will lose some sodium due to perspiration.
Carbs are relatively low in calories and the inclusion of fiber means you have a lower net carb intake. In this label’s example, you have 10g of carbs, and 1g of dietary fiber ‒ this means you only digest 9g of total carbs.
Good carbohydrates are essential to your health. You should try to eat 40% of your diet from carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruit, and dark grains. These foods have the highest amount of fiber and will provide you with the lowest net carb intake.
Fiber is also a very successful tool for weight management.
Vitamins and Minerals
Depending on the assortment of food you’re looking at, you’ll see various vitamins and minerals. The percentages are all based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Reading food labels comes down to attention to the little details. You can’t be afraid of the calories, but it’s important that you understand where the calories come from.
For example, looking at the food label on peanuts, you’ll find very high calories, but this isn’t necessarily bad for you. Eating nuts is generally a very healthy way to get healthy fats and other nutrients.
The less ingredients you see on a food label, the more natural it usually is. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the names of the food ingredients on the label, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Strengthening Your Health
Reading the food label will not only help to strengthen your overall health, but it will also make you more conscious of the foods you’re eating on a daily basis.
With this in mind, most nutritionist and dieticians advocate for a whole-food approach. Of course, if you’re eating an apple, there’s no need for any food label. An apple is an apple!
You can take this one step further by asking each restaurant for a detailed food label on each of their items, or look it up on an app like MyFitnessPal. You can order foods based on the nutrition facts, rather than what they look like in a picture!
Read your labels and know what you’re eating. It’s an essential matter of health.