Need To Know: How To Read A Food Label

Posted by | September 14, 2012 | Healthy Eating, How To, Nutrition | 3 Comments

Understanding Nutrition Facts Made Easy!

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to eat healthier is they believe all calories are made equal.  They definitely are not! 100 calories of protein will affect you completely different from 100 calories of sugar.  So when you are cutting calories you want to make sure you are cutting the right ones!  Another common belief is that all “diet” and “lite” foods are healthy choices. Many “diet” foods are full of chemicals that have no nutrition value whatsoever.  Now this is not to say that all “lite” foods are bad but instead of looking at the front of the box or can lets take it to the side and read the label instead!

Calories are units of energy made up of FAT, PROTEIN, and CARBS (sugar and fiber).  Carbs and Protein each have 4 calories/gram and fat has 9 calories/gram.

Healthy Eating

Fat is NOT a four letter word when it comes to nutritious and healthy eating.  There are however 4 different types of fat and your body uses these types differently.  For example, good fats are Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats. These are usually found in animals, nuts, and avocados.  These fats actually decrease your “bad” cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol in your blood stream. These fats are VERY important in many functions in your body.  You should try to minimize Saturated fats, also found naturally in animal products, and avoid all together trans-fats, also known as hydrogenated fats which are found in foods that have been processed. Trans fats add shelf life and smoother texture to products. These two fats increase the bad cholesterol and decrease the good cholesterol in your body. A diet high in these bad fats is correlated to obesity.  Even the good fats should be eaten in moderation in relation to your  total calorie intake per day and  so you should consume these based on the recommended Daily allowance (RDA), you can find these here.

Protein is found in animal and soy products and can also be found in nuts and legumes. You need protein, especially when trying to get into shape, to help support many bodily functions including muscle repair. Because it takes a lot for the body to breakdown protein, it keeps you fuller longer.  This is very important in the mornings to get your metabolism going, which is why eggs and greek yogurt are  great options for breakfast!

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate and is very important in your body’s digestion processes.  You can find it in whole grains, legumes, and most green veggies.  It also keeps you fuller longer which is what you want to aim for.  Be sure not too eat a crazy excess of fiber as it can be harmful to your body’s digestion, I recommend looking up your RDA at dietaryguidlines.gov.

Sugar is found in fruits, veggies, refined sugar, honey, whole grains, nuts and the list goes on.  Carbs are necessary for your body to function! In fact they are a main source of energy for your body.  Once again all carbs are not created equal. Simple sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and honey are processed and stored by the body quickly and provide little long-lasting benefits.  These are what we call “empty calories”, your body really doesn’t benefit from them the way it would from a piece of fruit or whole wheat toast with peanut butter. When exercising it is important to eat carbs before your workout to give you the energy to power through, so please don’t restrict all carbs, Simply choose good carbs over the bad!

With these 4 key points to look for on the label, you can now go to the grocery store fully confident you are making healthy food choices that are good for you and your family! Plus you will look über smart and health conscious standing in the aisle looking at the labels.

Enjoy your weekend!

-Amy

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