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How To | Read Food Labels

How To | Read Food Labels

How To | Read Food Labels

Do you know what you're really eating? Grocery shopping can be overwhelming for those of us who don’t know if we are purchasing the healthiest products. Understanding and reading the nutritional information on food labels is the best way to know exactly what you are eating in order to make the healthiest food choices.

Image Credit: Instagram/thefitfoodie

Look at the serving size

Nutritional fact information is based on a single serving size. The backs of nutritional labels state how many calories and nutrients are in a single serving of the product. A lot of food products contain more than 1 serving size in the packaged portion. Many food labels can be deceiving and you could be unknowingly eating a much larger portion than the calculated serving size. A serving size may be half a can of soft drink, a quarter of a packet of popcorn, or 2 squares of a chocolate bar.

If you want to know the nutritional value of what you’re eating, you have to multiply the serving on the packaging by the number of servings you consumed.

Look at the ingredients list

The only way to truly judge the quality of a food is to find out what it’s made of. But if you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce the ingredients, think twice before adding it to your cart. 

Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount. That means that the products that are listed first are what your product is made up most of. We suggest scanning the first few ingredients – if they are made up of refined sugars and oils then you can guarantee that the product is unhealthy. We suggest choosing items that have whole foods listed as their first few ingredients.

Make your calories count

Instead of counting calories focus on the nutrients in food products. If a product has a lot of protein, fibre, healthy fats and vitamins in a moderate amount of calories, it is a good and healthy choice;  consuming ‘empty calories’ or foods with little nutritional value should be avoided. Don’t choose products based on the amount of calories that they contain. Just because the calories are lower than another product does not mean that they are healthier product.

Image Credit: Food, Nutrition & Wellness

Look out for misleading words

We often buy products based on what is advertised on their packaging automatically assuming that they mean the product is healthy. But what do these words actually mean? You should be on the lookout for these commonplace words:

Low-fat

This label means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Read the ingredients listed on the back to gauge how much sugar has been added in the manufacturing process.

Gluten-free

Gluten-free does not equal healthy. If a product is gluten-free it means that it doesn’t contain wheat, spelt, rye or barley. Foods that are gluten-free can also be highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars.

Zero trans fat

This means that the product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. So a product can still contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per servings without having to list it.

No added sugar

Many products are naturally high in sugar so just because they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean that they are healthy.

Organic

Like gluten-free products, if a product is labelled organic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthy. Organic simply means that the product contains ingredients that have been certified as organically grown.

Light

Products that have been labelled ‘light’ may have been watered down or processed to reduce calories or fat. Check packaging labels carefully to see if anything has been added instead, like sugar.

Labels don’t guarantee that products are in fact healthy. Double check the nutritional content to be sure

Eat Wholefoods where possible

The best way to avoid being misled by food labels is to avoid processed foods. Wholefoods are foods that have been refined as little as possible and are free from additives and artificial substances (e.g. plant and animal based foods). If you do buy processed foods be sure to sort out the junk from the higher quality products.

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