Do you read food labels and ingredients on your food purchases? If you don’t, then it is a habit you should start. It is important to get a good idea of what you are eating and what is in the food you are buying. The reason I say ‘idea’ is because food labels are not always 100% honest. Keep reading to learn more!
How to Read a Food Label
Okay, this is not actually difficult, but I will point out certain parts of the label you should pay attention to.
- Serving Size – Many people miss the serving size or don’t really take it into account. Let’s take Peanut Butter for example. You might just see: 190 calories, 8 g of carbs, 16 g of fat, and 7 g of protein. BUT look at the serving size. Those numbers refer to 2 tbsp of Peanut Butter. If you eat MORE than 2 tbsp, then guess what: each of those numbers go up; most likely you end up eating more than you think, therefore, ingesting more calories, more fat, and more carbs. Those can add up quickly.
- Fiber – Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to the fiber in food products. It is part of the carbohydrates you consumer, but you actually subtract the fiber from the total amount of carbs. Fiber is a carbohydrate your body cannot digest, so it does not affect your blood sugar levels. So, if you have 10 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber then the total amount of carbs you are consuming would be 6 grams of carbs.
The rest of the food label is pretty self explanatory and I don’t need to go into a lot of detail there. Those are just the 2 most common misinterpreted parts of reading the food label. Everything else is pretty basic.
- Order: Did you know there is an order to the ingredients listed as part of the food labels? The ingredients are listed from highest quantity to lowest quantity. That means the first ingredient is what is most used in the product. If you find a product and the first ingredient is ‘sugar’ then, yes, that means the product is mostly made up of sugar.
- Most of the time, if you are buying a product with a very very long ingredient list, then it is most likely highly processed
- Recognition: Look for ingredients you recognize. If you do not know or cannot pronounce most of what is in the product you are buying, then there is a high chance of a high processed and chemical product which is not going to be healthy for you.
- Look for different words for sugar: maltose, molasses, dextrose, maple syrup, malt syrup, rice syrup, honey, corn syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, castor sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, carob sugar, barely malt, lactose, corn sweetener, fructose, glucose, dextran, disaccharides, maltodextren, etc It is all sugar to your body.
- Low-fat: This label on food products is extremely deceptive. If a product is labeled low-fat then it will have more sugar. The fat has been reduced, but more sugar is added to keep the product tasting good and flavorful.
- Zero Trans Fat: this can also be misleading. If a product has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, then it can be labeled as zero trans fat when it actually does contain trans fat – be careful and pay attention to the serving sizes.
Ingredients and labels are IMPORTANT! It matters what you eat and put into your body. Pay attention to your health! Take your time to read and look at what you are buying. Even spices can have hidden sugars and unhealthy ingredients in them (sugar is everywhere)!