Boy, I know this can be a though one at times. During this day and age, it seems that there’s always something new on the market to look out for. The “next super food” or “magic weight loss ingredient”. Truth is, nutrition labels are quite straight forward and don’t necessarily change. In fact, they aren’t always exact and should only be used as a guide in choosing healthy products. I know for some of you, it may just seem like a bunch of numbers and letters. That’s why I decided to write a blog about it.
This advice is what helped me understand labels and is what I've been using to make better choices. So here are a some basic and simple tips I have gathered when looking at nutrition labels:
Daily Value %
When looking at a label, one of the first things I look at is the daily value percentage. This percentage is based on an adult's daily caloric intake (which is averaged out at 1500 calorie/day) and tells us, in a percentage, how much we are aiming at in each nutrient in a day.
A good rule of thumb is between 5-15%. Something above 15% is considered a bit high, something below 5% is considered low. I try to aim lower (towards 5% or lower) when looking at fats (saturated and trans), sugars and sodium (salt). Fibre is the one of the nutrient I try to aim a bit higher for (15% or higher).
Fats (saturated, non-saturated, trans fat)
If I’m looking at fats, I try to aim for no or low trans fat and saturated fats. Trans fats are fats that have been transformed by heat or chemical reaction, making it hard for our bodies to process them. I try to have a greater ratio of non-saturated fat vs. saturated & trans fat.
Product Amount vs Amount on Label
Before any else, make sure you read the amount listed on top of the label AND the one stated on the product. Often, the one that is on the label is lower that what the product is stating. This can make it confusing when you are trying to make an effort in balancing your intake. Make sure you keep this in mind.
Carbs (fibre & sugar amounts)
I don’t necessarily look at the number of total carbs. What I’m more interested in is the amount of sugar and fibre there is. The total carb number on a label represents, your complex carbs, simple carbs (which is sugar) and fibre
In this product for example, in a total of 26g of carbs, there is 22g of sugar. Leaving us with 4g of complex carbs and 0g fibre. This tells me the this product is high in sugar and probably has sugar added to it.
Number of ingredients (5 or less)
One of the most important things is to look at is how many ingredients there are in a product. If it's 5 ingredients or less, it is most likely that this product is not processed. If there are more than 5 ingredients, I usually do a quick read through. I tend to find ingredients I can't even read after 5th-10th. This is when I try avoid purchasing the product. Because, who wants to eat something they can't pronounce (Not me!!!).
PS. When you are looking at the ingredients, keep in mind that the first ingredient listed is the one that has the largest amount in the product and this lowers as you read through the list.
I know that this is a lot of information. This is mainly based on what I like to look at when I’m grocery shopping. There are lots of other ways to help you make healthy choices, but these work very well for me. Feel free to share these tips with your friends & family!
Until next time,