It is important to know how to read a nutrition label in order to understand and control which nutrients you consume in your day-to-day diet. Recent studies show that eating a poor quality diet high in sugars and processed foods lead to obesity, depression, heart disease, and many other chronic illnesses. Nutrition labels are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are included on all foods at the grocery store. Knowing which key items to look for on a nutrition label with practice becomes very natural while grocery shopping.
The two main components to look for on the nutrition label are the calories and ingredients listed. Knowing how many calories a food is going to provide is important in order to maintain a healthy weight and to avoid other illnesses. If I know that a healthy diet for an adult female is about 3500 calories a day then I am able to mindfully track the calories I am consuming throughout my day. If you are looking to lose or gain weight then tracking the calories you consume compared to calories you are burning through exercise can be beneficial and a good tool for measurement.
Not only is it important to know how many calories your foods have but also to know which nutrients the calories have to offer. You should note that calories are made up of 3 macronutrients which provide us with the energy we need to live. These 3 nutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Consuming too little or too much of a specific nutrient can lead to a variety of chronic illnesses and can be avoided by being aware of what you put into your body.
First, note that calories from carbohydrates can either come from sugars or fibers which can help differentiate processed foods from real foods. Processed foods contain carbohydrates from added sugars like candy and white bread which can lead to diabetes and obesity. Real foods like fresh veggies or whole grains are full of carbohydrates from fibers. When looking at the nutrition label under carbohydrates, it is important to compare the amount of sugars to fibers in order to separate processed from real foods.
Next, you should note that there are healthy and unhealthy fats known as saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are healthy for you and are an essential part of our diet in order to keep a healthy brain and overall body functions. Healthy unsaturated fats include foods such as vegetable oils, fish, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fats are foods like butter, processed meats, pastries, pies, and cooking creams. Absorbing too much saturated fat in your diet will increase your blood cholesterol and can lead to heart disease.
After I skim through which calories the food has to offer, I glance at the vitamins and minerals listed next. Vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients because they do not give us energy although they are essential to our diet in order to function properly. On the nutrition label listed next to each vitamin and mineral is a percentage number. This percentage number is listed based on a recommended daily value made by the FDA for a healthy diet. I like to quickly glance at each to make a mental note about which micronutrients I may need more or less of throughout the day.
Last, I look at the bottom where the ingredients are listed. Note that the ingredients are listed in order of abundance in that specific food. For example, if water is listed first, then the food is mostly made of water. It is important to read through the ingredients to understand exactly what you are putting into your body. If the list is full of ingredients that you do not know like Monosodium Glutamate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, or Artificial Food Coloring, it is a good sign that the food is more processed and not clean for you.
It is important to know how to read a nutrition label in order to fill your body with essential and healthy nutrients. Keep it simple when skimming through the nutrition labels and look for the two main components; calories and ingredients. When you look at the nutrition label on each food item at the grocery store you should feel comfortable and know it is a great tool to control your weight and health. Practice being more aware of the foods you consume throughout your day to prevent chronic illnesses and to live a long healthy life.
Thank you for reading through my blog about how to read a nutrition label. I hope you find this information useful and you are able to apply it to your everyday life. After all, healthy eating is a lifestyle choice rather than a quick diet fix. Practice reading nutrition labels and become comfortable in order to make a long term healthy lifestyle choice.
Coach Elizabeth, Personal Trainer.