Don't let those sneaky product names and health claims on the front of the package fool you! You gotta be on your toes! Did you know that when a product is labeled "low calorie," it often means that a chemical sweetener has been added? And get this, just because something is labeled "organic," it doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy for you. But don't fret, my friend! You can take charge of your own health by advocating for yourself.
Some questions to ask yourself when looking at a nutrition label
1. How much daily added sugar is in one serving?
2. Is there a high protein content?
3. What ingredients are actually in the product?
What is Most Important to Look at on a Nutrition Label
1. A short ingredient list looking for minimal ingredients:
When it comes to buying food, less is often more. Look for real, minimal, and easy-to-understand ingredients. Stick with what you know and avoid hard-to-pronounce ingredients, which are often chemicals or processed foods. Remember that ingredients are listed in order of amounts, so if sugar is the first ingredient, that means it's the main component. Stick to the good stuff and keep it simple
2. Serving Size:
Don't be fooled by serving sizes - they're determined by the company, not always what you would actually eat or drink. Some products may even contain multiple servings, even though they're meant to be a single portion. Take granola, for example. The label might say 200 calories and 5g of added sugar per serving, but if your personal serving size is larger than the indicated serving size, you could end up consuming way more calories and sugar than you thought. If the granola's serving size is ¼ cup, but you usually eat 1 cup, that means you'll be consuming 800 calories and 20g of sugar. Always pay attention to the serving size and adjust the nutrition facts accordingly.
3. Fiber content versus net carbohydrates:
The nutrition panel breaks down carbohydrates into simple and complex types, so pay attention to the total carbs and the fiber. Net carbs are the ones that get digested as sugar and affect your blood glucose. Net Carbs = Total Carbs - Fiber. Fiber is great because it helps with digestion and keeps you full, but it doesn't get digested like other carbs. Women should aim for 25g of fiber daily, men should aim for 38g. When buying high carb foods, aim for 2-3g of fiber per serving.
4. Higher protein versus added sugar:
Watch out for sneaky sugar names like dextrose or corn syrup, added to make low-fat foods taste better. Men should have less than 37g of sugar daily, women less than 25g. Aim for healthy snacks with less than 10g of added sugar. For optimal health, aim for about 0.5g of protein per pound of body weight daily. So if you weigh 200lbs, shoot for 100g of protein per day. Remember, if you're active, you may need even more protein. Keep snacking and stay healthy!
5. The percent daily values:
When you see %DV on food labels, remember it's just an estimate for someone eating 2,000 calories a day. You don't have to be perfect, just aim for products with low saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium - shoot for %DV less than 5%. Avoid trans fats because they're not good for your cholesterol levels. But don't worry about the small amounts of trans fat in dairy and meat products. When choosing foods, aim for ones high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber - shoot for %DV greater than 20%.