Nutrition labels are an invaluable tool for the modern professional woman. While some may find them a tad perplexing, or perhaps, they only have eyes for a few key details (calorie count, anyone?), these labels are like trusty guides helping us, as discerning consumers, to make educated choices. Before delving into the nitty-gritty of nutrition labels, it's essential to acknowledge that they aren't the be-all and end-all of healthy eating. The truth is, the truly fantastic stuff, like fresh fruits and vegetables, doesn't come with nutrition labels – they're just naturally amazing.
Let's face it: we still fill our shopping carts with packaged goodies. So, let's embark on a journey to decode those labels and ensure that the packaged foods we consume align with our health and wellness goals.
Read all the way down for my TOP TIP!
Key Tips for Reading Nutrition Labels
1. Focus on Serving Size: Always start by checking the serving size. It's easy to assume that a package contains one serving, but that's not always the case. Adjust the nutrient values accordingly based on the amount you plan to consume. Yes it’s helpful to see how many calories are in a product, but first, you have to look at the portion size. Are you having 1/2 c of pasta sauce? or more? If its 1.5 c of pasta sauce, you have to multiply the number by 3. It adds up! Plus, not all calories are equal. Choose calories that are loaded with nutrition! Empty calories don’t contain as many nutrients and this can leave our body hungry (even after eating), and you we will continue to search for food until we get all the nutrition you need.
2. Check Calories: Be mindful of the calorie count per serving. This can help you manage your calorie intake and make choices that align with your fitness goals.
3. Watch for Added Sugars: Keep an eye out for added sugars under the "Total Carbohydrates" section. High sugar consumption can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Sugar is represented in the amount of total carbohydrates and then also shows the grams of total sugar (including added sugar). Checking this out is helpful! Keeping your daily intake down will greatly support your health.
How many different names are there for sugar? (the answer is somewhere between 56 and 71 +)
Alphabetically, these are the ones I see the most...(keep scrolling)
Brown rice syrup
Corn glucose syrup
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
High fructose corn syrup (an added sugar derived from corn starch and commonly found in processed foods)
Inverted sugar (a.k.a. invert sugar)
Treacle or treacle sugar
4. Mindful of Fats: Limit saturated and trans fats, as they can contribute to heart disease. Opt for products with healthier fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
5. Sodium Awareness: Be cautious with high-sodium products, as excessive salt intake can lead to hypertension. Look for lower-sodium alternatives.
6. Consider % Daily Value: Use %DV as a general guide to identify whether a product is high or low in a specific nutrient. Aim for foods with a lower %DV of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
7. INGREDIENTS!! The ingredients section unveils the true identity of the product, providing a transparent window into what you're about to consume. It's your opportunity to scrutinize not only the individual components but also their quality. By delving into this list, you can identify potential allergens, artificial additives, excessive sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives that might not align with your dietary preferences or health goals.
Questions I ask myself when I look at the ingredients?
What is the first ingredient? (that means it has the most of this item).
Can I pronounce all the ingredients?
How many ingredients?
Check it out below where I compare the ingredients and nutriion for Prego Spaghetti sauce (which I grew up eating as a kid) and the Rao's Spaghetti Sauce we eat now.
Prego's first ingredient is tomato puree vs. Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes!! Prego has sugar and canola oil, and Rao's has Olive Oil. Prego has less than 1% dried ingreidnets + citric acid and Rao's has actual ingredients and NO additives!
To me, it is a no -brainer!
So, my #1 tip for grocery shopping is to spend more time on the external aisles finding the ingredients to make dinner, but in the absence of that obtion, use this blog post to guide you through those overwhleming mid-aisles and make the best choices for your body!