How to read a Nutrition Label
besides just checking the calories…
Ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity within the product. Whatever is listed first in the panel has the most volume in the food you are consuming. Avoid products made mostly of sugar or salt. Avoid things that have a LONG list of ingredients because that means it is less natural and more chemicals.
Serving size. Make sure not to skip this part over and just eat the entire bag of frozen veggies (or chips if you are being bad). The numbers on the label refer to one serving size of the product. The FDA sets serving sizes for all foods―they are measurements, not recommendations.
Calories. Calories are a unit of energy. Don’t be afraid of them because the more your body can metabolize, the better! Overall, low calorie foods are best so you can eat more throughout the rest of the day and keep your metabolism revved up. You want to spread your calories out evenly throughout the day.
Sugar. There are about 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. So if the product has 4 grams of sugar, it would be like scooping a teaspoon of sugar straight into your mouth. So just be cautious of consuming foods too high in sugar. For example, fruits are high in sugar. So that is why people who are cutting and leaning out avoid fruits.
Sodium. Try to keep your sodium levels below 2000mg a day. Too much sodium -> bloating and/or high blood pressure. Soup is a good example of a high sodium product that should not be eaten often if trying to lean out.
Carbohydrate and Protein. Both contain 4 calories per gram. Therefore when you are reading how many grams of carbs/protein on a package, you can multiply each by 4 to see exactly how many calories are coming from each source compared to the total amount of calories in the food. These are the main numbers I look at because most of my diet revolves around carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. How much you should have all depends on what your daily caloric intake needs to be to maintain weight. Make sure to read my post about how to develop a personalized diet plan to figure out your dietary requirements.
Fats. Multiply this number by 9 to see how many calories in the food are coming from fat. The label will then list what types of fats the product contain being either monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, or trans fats. If the product is mainly trans fat then it is highly processed and your body is going to have a really hard time processing this type of fat. Expect to see saturated fat in all animal products from dairy to meat to eggs. Polyunsaturated (walnuts,flaxseed,fish oil,salmon) and monounsaturated (avocado,almonds,olive oil) are seen as good fats and great to eat. Be cautious of foods labeled fat-free because many times they just add more sugar so it does not mean it is good to eat necessarily.
Dietary Fibers. The average person should eat 21-35g of fiber daily in order to maintain healthy digestion. Examples of this are apples, greens, oatmeal, beans, and vegetables.
So for an example, let’s look at my favorite treat- PEANUT BUTTER!
To review the label for this Natural JIF peanut butter (above), it is made from peanuts and sugar (see the Ingredients section). The culprit here is the main ingredient of sugar. Avoid unnecessary sugars!
So the bad news is… what you thought looked like a great, natural, healthy peanut butter is not as healthy as expected. This proves why it is important to read the ingredients in the foods you buy.
Instead, we like the brand Adams which can be bought at Walmart now. It has very similar grams of protein, carbs, and fats. But the main difference is there is no sugar listed in the ingredients! Yay! You can also buy the Whole Foods brand which is excellent! Take a look at how it compares below…
Hope this post helps you make wiser choices at the grocery store!
Have a wonderful day 🙂