How to Read Food Labels
If you want to improve your health, the best possible way is to eat Real Food: unprocessed, whole foods. Cook it all yourself, hand choose exactly what goes in it, and you can make sure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs at every meal.
I know that’s just not possible 100-percent of the time. On occasion you may need to buy canned foods, sauces or vegetables, or you may want to use pre-made ingredients, boxed mixes, or other similar items.
While it’s certainly harder to watch your health with these items, it’s definitely not impossible. You just have to know how to read and understand food labels. And that can be pretty difficult.
To help you get started I’ve got a few label-reading tips for you:
- Serving size – First and foremost, always check the serving size, and take note of how many servings are in the box or can. It could only be 100 calories per serving, but if there are six servings … that ends up being a lot more calories than you bargained for. Knowing the serving size first helps you put all other numbers into perspective.
- Fats – You’re not looking at the total number of fat grams, just the breakdown of fat types. How many saturated, trans and polyunsaturated fats are there? Saturated fats and trans fats are the bad ones; if you see a label that has high counts of these, steer clear.
- Sugar – Americans consume more sugar than just about any other country, and it’s one of the leading causes of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and many other related health conditions. You want to choose products that are as low in sugar as possible, and be on the lookout for hidden sugars in the ingredients list, too. (See below)
- Sodium – Too much sodium is bad for your health. It can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket and it can incrementally raise your risk of heart disease. If you see high numbers of sodium (over 800 mg), then put the food item back. It’s probably highly processed, unnatural, and just plain bad for you.
- Fiber – Fiber is crucial to a healthy diet and a well-functioning digestive system. Make sure you’re choosing products that have high amounts of dietary fibers where at all possible.
- Daily values – When considering a stat, make sure you’re noting the “% daily value” area, too. If something accounts for a huge chunk of your daily value (unless it’s a vitamin or nutrient you need), then think again. That means you’re going to have to be extra careful about what you eat the rest of the day to stay within a healthy range.
- Vitamins and minerals – This is where you learn exactly how healthy that food item is. Take a look at each vitamin and mineral listed, and take note of how much of your daily value they account for. The higher that number the healthier the product is for you and your body.
In addition to knowing how to read a food label you should also be clued in to potential red-flag items in the ingredients list. Tons of hidden sugars and other bad-for-you additives are often listed there, and if you want to be healthy, avoiding these is crucial.
Common bad ingredients to watch out for include:
- Partially hydrogenated oil or shortening (code for trans fat)
- Sweetener, brown rice syrup, malt syrup, fructose, glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane crystals (all hidden, added sugars)
- Aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame (artificial sweeteners)
- Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate (thought to be cancer-causing)
- Artificial colorings (may pose health risks)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
By understanding food labels and knowing what to watch out for you can make better shopping decisions at the grocery store. It’s a little daunting at first, but you’ll get the hang of it, and it will make your health journey easier and more successful in the long run.
~ Be Happy, Healthy and Fit in Mind, Body and Spirit ~ Visit DiviniFit.com for daily health, fitness & lifestyle tips ~
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