First things first—to optimize your health, you should be mainly prioritizing whole foods that don’t have nutrition labels. You should be doing most of your food shopping on the grocery store’s perimeter, buying fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats that don’t come in a package with a label.
That said, a diet consisting only of whole foods isn’t realistic for most people. Whether for convenience or taste, we all buy some foods with labels.
So how can you best use the information on a nutrition label to make healthier food choices?
Three Things To Look Out For
01. Ingredients: How Many And What’s First?
The ingredient list is the first thing you should look for on a nutrition label! Is there added sugar, artificial sweeteners, highly processed cooking oils, or all of the above? Are there three ingredients, or is it an endless list of things you can’t pronounce? Many times you could be picking up a snack that claims to be healthy, just to find out that the first three ingredients are sugar, sugar, and sugar. Keep in mind that there are many names for added sugar that food companies use to disguise the sneaky product into their nutrition labels. Sugar, cane sugar, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, dextrose, maltodextrin, turbinado, and rice syrup—these are all the same thing, more or less.
02. Serving Size Is Everything.
You may pick up a tasty snack and read the food label just to be pleasantly surprised at how low the calories are. But be careful with this trick, and always pay attention to the serving size. Sometimes food companies label their food using a serving size much smaller than what the average person will consume. If you aren’t careful, you could easily eat three to four servings worth of the calories you think you are eating.
03. Sneaky Claims.
Always check the label and ingredient list despite any health and nutrition claims on the front of the package. A product may claim to be “whole wheat” on the front, but the first ingredient could be “enriched wheat flour,” which is processed wheat flour. Also, when a product claims to contain “less” of something like fat or sugar, it means “less than the regular version of that product” and not necessarily a low amount of fat or sugar in general. This sneaky marketing tactic may give the impression of a healthier option, but the product could still be high in fat or sugar.
For more Tips, Recipes, and Resources
ONE THING TO TRY THIS WEEK
Check The Label
Next time you go food shopping, make sure to turn the package around and check out the food labels for everything you buy. Is the serving size what you expected? Are there more added sugars than you thought?
This might make your shopping trip take a little longer, but the information you will learn from making reading the nutrition label a habit is worth the extra time!
Need help making the right food choices when you grocery shop, cook, or eat out? Working with a nutrition coach to guide you and hold you accountable might be exactly what you need to finally stick to a plan and make real, sustainable changes that stick.
NUTRITION + ACCOUNTABILITY
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