29 Mar 10 Tips for What to Look For When Reading Food Labels
Reading food labels can be an overwhelming and confusing experience especially when you think about how many different terms and numbers there are to navigate! It can be difficult to know where to start. However, if you’d like to make more informed choices about what you eat, taking the time to read food labels is an important step towards this. We’ve put together some tips for reading food labels and what to look for to ensure you’re making the healthiest choices possible.
1. Check the Serving Size
One of the most important things to look for when reading a food label is the serving size. This will tell you how much of the product is considered to be one serving. All of the other information on the label (such as calories, fat, and sugar) is based on this serving size. Remember that the serving size listed on the label may not be the same as the amount you actually eat. For example, if the recommended serving size is 100g and you eat 200g, you’ll need to double all of the numbers on the nutritional information to get an accurate idea of how much of your recommended daily allowance you’re consuming.
2. Look at the Calories
Calories are units of energy in a food or drink, and they’re an important consideration when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. When you look at the food label, be sure to check the number of calories per serving. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s wise to choose foods that are lower in calories. On the other hand, if you’re looking to gain weight or maintain your current weight, you may want to choose foods that are higher in calories.
3. Check the Fat Content
Fat is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles in our bodies, but consuming too much of it can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Check the amount of total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat when you read your label. Total fat includes all types of fat, while saturated fat and trans-fat are types of fat that can be harmful to your health when consumed in excess. Aim to choose foods that are lower in saturated and trans-fat, and higher in healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
4. Pay Attention to Salt
Salt is a chemical compound made up of sodium and chloride. It’s the sodium part that’s detrimental to your health (it can cause high blood pressure for example) if over consumed and it’s found in most processed foods. But our bodies do need a variety of minerals to function properly. When reading food labels, check the amount of sodium per serving. Aim to choose foods that are lower in sodium and try to limit your total intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
5. Look for Fibre
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that’s important for digestive health and can help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. When reading food labels, look for products that are high in fibre. The recommended daily intake is around 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
6. Check the Sugar Content
Sugar is a carbohydrate that can be found in many different foods and drinks, and consuming too much of it will lead to weight gain and other health problems. When reading food labels, check the amount of sugar per serving. Keep in mind that sugar can be listed on food labels under many different guises. Syrups, molasses, and honey are all made up of sugar so be sure to read the ingredient list carefully.
7. Look for Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates, many foods also contain important vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health. Look for products that are high in vitamins and minerals when you read the nutritional information. For example, calcium is important for bone health, while iron is important for healthy blood. Aim to choose foods that are rich in these nutrients to help ensure you’re meeting your daily recommended amounts.
8. Check the Ingredient List
The ingredient list can be just as important as the nutrition facts when it comes to making healthy choices. The ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the first ingredient being the most predominant. Be sure to read the list carefully and look out for any ingredients that you may be allergic to or that you want to avoid. For example, if you’re trying to limit your intake of processed foods, you may want to avoid products that contain artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives. Allergens will usually be printed in bold font.
9. Beware of Misleading Claims
Food labels can be full of marketing claims and buzzwords that could make a product seem healthier than it really is. Be wary of claims like ‘all-natural’, ‘low-fat’, and ‘organic’, and be sure to read the nutrition facts and ingredient list to get a true understanding of what you’re consuming. For example, a product labelled ‘low-fat’ will usually be loaded with sugar or salt to make it tasty. A product labelled ‘sugar free’ could have lots of chemically enhanced sweeteners added, so it’s important to get the full picture.
10. Compare Products
When food shopping, it’s important to compare similar products to ensure you’re choosing the healthiest option. Look at the nutrition facts and ingredient lists of different brands and products to find the one that best fits your nutritional needs and preferences. For example, if you’re trying to choose between two types of cereal, compare the serving sizes, calories, fibre, sugar, and other nutrients to make an informed decision.
Taking the time to read food labels may seem daunting at first, but it’s a small step that can make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
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