Reading Food Labels

In the world of nutrition, it’s fairly easy for a nutritionist or dietician to skim through labels and determine what’s healthy, and what is not. But for the average American, nutrition labels may be confusing and seem like just words and numbers. As long as it’s low calorie…it must be healthy right? This is wrong. I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on how to separate the good from the bad. This way when you’re picking out food for yourself or your family you can make the healthiest choices!

            To start look at both the serving size and the number of servings in the package. You want to compare your normal portion size which is the amount you actually eat, to the serving size listed on the panel. For example, if the serving size is half a cup and you actually have 1 cup, your getting twice the calories and other nutrients listed. Next, it’s time to check out the calories - you want to acknowledge how many calories are in a single serving. If you are watching your weight, it would be ideal to cut back on calories.

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet in a day. When looking at Daily Values, low would be considered 5% or less. In general, you want to choose items that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. High would be considered 20% or more. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Moving on to saturated fat and sodium, both saturated and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Sodium at high levels can increase blood pressure, it’s better to have low sodium and refrain from adding extra salt to foods.

When it comes to vitamins, minerals and fiber, you want to eat more fiber, potassium, Vitamin D, iron and calcium to maintain good health. By having more fruits and vegetables you are able to obtain all of these nutrients. To get even more scientific, if you feel you are not getting in enough nutrients or may be nutrient deficient, there are tests that can be done in our office to test for micronutrient deficiency to ensure your body is fully healthy!

 Now let’s look at protein, carbohydrates and sugars.. the proteins you want to eat are lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses. For carbohydrates you want to eat whole grain breads, wheat pasta, brown or wild rice as well as fruits and vegetables. When it comes to sugars you want to avoid high fructose corn syrup and stay away from artificial sweeteners such as equal and Sweet’ n Low. Instead go for stevia which is an all natural cane sugar.

Lastly, when looking at the ingredient list it’s important to note that the ingredient with the highest amount in the food, will be listed first, while the ingredients with the lowest amount will be listed last. For instance, if there’s an ingredient listed first as fructose corn syrup, you may want to steer away from this as that food product will be high in sugar. So next time you hit up the grocery store, try out a few of these tips and I hope you see a difference in you and your family’s health, overall well being and energy!

Bianca De La Rosa

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