Understanding nutrition labels are one of the most important aspect of being healthy; although regulated by FDA (I have a lot to say about how this association operates and how they look out for corporates’ interests instead of people’s), companies use loopholes to make their products LOOK lighter in calories and chemicals.
Being able to understand the real meaning behind nutrition labels is important to avoid ingesting unwanted calories, saturated fats, sodium and sugars, just to mention.
The five easy steps to help you read the labels:
Step 1: Start by look at the serving size. It is essential to compare the serving size on the package to the amount of the whole package. Did you know that the serving size of Oreo is actually 2 cookies? There are between 13 to 18 serving sizes, depending on the package. Same is valid for example for Pringles (13 chips – who eats only 13 chips!!?), and ice-cream (usually 1/2 cup, not a bowl).
Step 2: Check the calories content. Eating the right amount of calories each day will make a bit difference at the end of the year; eating a mere 100 calories more each day, leads to a gain of more than 10 pounds a year. If you’d like to know how many calories you should be eating every day, write me an email and I will help you calculate them; this is on me. 😀
Step 3: Look at the grams of the main macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. I believe that a balanced diet is the way to go. Any diet that is strongly restricting on of these macronutrients, cannot be carried out for long or without difficulties. For athletes, carbohydrates are the main source of energy, so a strong focus should be given to these.
Step 4: Limit the amount of these: a) saturated fats b) transfats c) sodium AND d) sugars (especially if the food should be savoury, those are definitely added sugars).
Did you know that companies are allowed to indicated ‘0 g’ of trans fats even if the product contains 0.5 grams of trans fat? That’s why the serving sizes are usually small; you might be thinking you are eating none, but having 2 servings size might be making you ingest 1 gram of those arteries clogging fats.
Step 5: Try to get less of these nutrients (in blue): a) monounsaturated fats, b) fibers, c) vitamins, d) minerals
Putting it all together; download and print this handout and bring it with you next time you will shop.