Decoding Food Labels
Whether you are trying to lose, gain or maintain weight, it is important to understand and know what you are putting in your body. Food labels have become increasingly easier to read and more informative for even beginning label readers to know what they are consuming. Food labels provide all the information you need regarding the nutritional values of a particular food product.
Reading labels will make it easier for you to judge what type of food product is good enough to put in your body. With labels, you can easily compare the food products and select the best option for your style of eating.
As necessary as it is, reading food labels can be a little tricky at first, but here are a few tips to get you reading them like a pro.
First things first. Check the amount and size of servings contained in a package because the nutritional values are written relative to that size of a serving. Serving sizes are mentioned to make it easier to compare similar amounts of food products. Every nutritional fact mentioned on the label is influenced by that serving size.
2. The total number of calories:
Another thing you might want to check is the number of calories. It will tell you how many calories you are consuming per serving. You can easily calculate the number of calories that you have consumed based on the amount of the food product you have eaten. Calories are good to know because the number of calories you consume or burn could determine whether you are going to gain or lose weight. For instance, if you consume or burn 3500 calories, you are going to gain or lose one pound of weight respectively.
In general if you focus on good quality, real food, then calories in and calories out can be less of a focus.
3. Nutrients to avoid:
The number and type of nutrients listed let you know how much energy you are consuming and how or if the ingredients of this food product are going to affect or nourish your body. While reading the label, check for things like trans fat, cholesterol and sodium; these are things you need to completely avoid if you intend to maintain your health or lose weight. These nutrients are notorious for contributing to heart disease and various types of cancers.
There are a number of ways food companies disguise added sugar and preservatives. My general rule is, if is sounds like it came from a lab, or I can’t pronounce it, then I avoid it. Put it back. Move on.
4. Nutrients to focus on:
On the flip side, look for foods that have high amounts of fiber, calcium, iron, proteins, zinc and a variety of vitamins. These nutrients will nourish your body and get you through your day without draining you of energy.
Also, vegetables and produce don’t have labels. Try to focus on foods that don’t need a label because they come from nature.
5. Percent Daily Value, or % DV:
This percentage gives you an idea of the number of nutrients that are available in a single serving. If you intend to avoid or limit a certain nutrient like cholesterol, sodium, trans fat or saturated fat, select food products that show less than 5% Daily Value. Similarly, if you want to start increasing the protein in your diet, look for food products that contain 20% or more of your daily value.
A rule of thumb when it comes to food labes…the ingredients at the top of the list are in larger amounts than the end. So if a package claims high in calcium, but calcium is the last thing on the ingredient list, then you know the advertising is misleading.
I hope this helps clear up any confusion you may have had surrounding food labels. Please leave any follow up questions in the comments.
Join me on my Facebook page,facebook.com/drlaramay, as well as Instagram & Twitter @drlaramay. Also, be sure to tune into my podcast on your favorite platform, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean or Anchor.Fm @Light Body Radio to get all the juicy info coming your way in a easily digestible format. I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions.
- Dr. Lara
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