It’s easier than you think to be fooled when reading a food label. Although you may believe you’re making healthy packaged food choices, you could be doing more harm than good. Marketing companies are using buzz words like “all natural” “pure” “sugar free” on labels to make their products seem healthy. The truth is your food choices might not be as REAL as advertised.
What should you do… Become a FOOD INVESTIGATOR! Never trust the front of a package label. Flip it over and read the nutrition facts to really know what you’re putting in your body.
Here are my top tips to navigate a food label:
Calories are not the best indicator of nutrition because not all calories are created equal. Your body metabolizes 300 calories of high fructose corn syrup very differently than 300 calories found in an avocado. It’s more important to focus on the quality not quantity of calories in your food.
The true worth of a food lies in its ingredients’ list. Ingredients are ordered by how much is in the product – so whatever is listed first is the primary ingredient while those toward the end hold less weight. Look for products with whole foods you recognize and stay away from items with sugar or corn syrup listed at the beginning. Generally, the fewer ingredients listed, the more wholesome and real a product will be.
3. Don’t trust health claims
If a product advertises that it’s fat or sugar free on the front label, there is a high probability that an extra shot of sugar or chemicals were added in to make up for it. Read those ingredients! Be wary of products advertised as “all natural,” as they can still contain chemicals and growth hormones. A good rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t cook with the ingredient at home, you don’t want it in your packaged food.
4. Look at the serving size
Sometimes the suggested serving size feels a bit ridiculous – only 6 chips? However, it is helpful to realize how much you are really consuming. For example, if the serving size is 1 cup and there are 2 servings in a container, be sure to double the calories and more importantly the sugar shown on the label. If you’re watching your waistline, stick to the recommended serving size.
Total fat on a label will tell you how much fat is in one serving of the product you are looking at. Remember not all fat is created equal! The human body is designed to run efficiently on high quality fats, so steer clear of ALL trans fats and unhealthy oils like corn, safflower and vegetable oil. Don’t stress about the rest. I suggest all my clients buy full or part-fat products – cheese, butter, yogurt, salad dressing. Remind yourself; when fat is removed, something else is always added.
And remember – when in doubt, you can never go wrong with whole foods that don’t need a label or disguise – i.e. fruit, veggies, protein, nuts!