If you are like most people, you probably check out the nutrition facts on food labels before purchasing. But, just reading the label isn’t enough. The key to making healthy food choices is to understand exactly what you’re reading. And even though it may seem easy, it can actually be a little tricky.
Read on to learn the top 5 tips for reading food labels.
Never Fall for the Front of the Box Hype
Brands will do almost whatever it takes to market their food products, and that includes making it seem like their products fit into the latest fad diet. For example, have you ever noticed how many products states that they’re “gluten free” nowadays? That’s because so many people have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon.
Don’t let the front of the label fool you into thinking the product is healthy. A product can say “low calorie”, but that can easily mean the serving size is the size of your pinky. Or, the front label can say “gluten free”, but this doesn’t lean it isn’t loaded with sugar.
To make sure you don’t fall for this trap, never put something in your cart without looking at the full label first.
Read the Ingredients List
What’s more important that figuring out the exact amount of fat, sodium, and calories in what you’re eating? Figuring out what ingredients you’re eating. Recent studies strongly support that it’s not how much you eat, but rather what you eat that really matters. This means that instead of avoiding calories or fat, you should be avoiding unnatural ingredients.
A good rule of thumb for telling if something is unnatural? If you can’t pronounce it or you don’t recognize the ingredient, it’s usually best to avoid it.
Brands use companies like Emma International to make sure their ingredients are FDA compliant, so usually knowing what you’re eating isn’t too tough.
Understand the Difference Between Reduced and Low
Reduced and low may sound like they’re saying the same thing, but that’s another marketing trick you need to watch out for. Just because something is “reduced” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “low”.
For example, even if this soy sauce contains 25 percent less sodium than the original version, it doesn’t mean that it’s low in sodium. A couple serving of this soy sauce could easily get you to hitting your daily recommended dose of sodium levels.
Make sure that you aren’t using the excuse that it’s reduced in some ingredient to overdo it on your portions.
Watch Out for Sugar Disguises
Most scientists now agree that is isn’t fat or calories that are causing us to gain weight, but rather sugar. With the rest of the world catching on, food brands are now doing what they can to disguise the fact that their products contain large amounts of sugar.
This means you shouldn’t only look out for the grams of sugar on nutrition labels, but also other terms for sugar such as corn syrup, honey, malted barley, maple syrup, etc.
Check the Serving Size
If 100 calories for a jumbo chocolate chip muffin seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many people are fooled into thinking products are way healthier than true hey actually are by forgetting to check the serving size. Oftentimes, products will contain at least 2 or 3 servings, if not more.
Therefore, it’s always very important to check the serving size and to know that if you eat more than the suggested serving size, you need to multiply the nutrition facts accordingly.