Whether you are uninformed or misinformed, not knowing the contents of the foods you eat will sabotage your weight loss efforts. Packaging of food products can be deceiving and don’t really convey the healthfulness of the product. Manufacturers use packaging as a marketing tool for the sole purpose of sales. They want you to believe in the healthfulness of their product so that you will purchase it, mission accomplished! Regardless of whether the package states (example: 0 Trans Fats, Low fat, Reduced Sodium, Reduced Fat), it is your responsibility to yourself to find out exactly what the specific ingredients are.
Solution: Read nutritional labels on the package
Food labels contain a wealth of information and at first glance, can look intimidating. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to make sense of it, you just need to be able to pick out the pertinent information.
Food Labels 101
First off, start with the list of ingredients. If the list of ingredients looks more like a short story, then there’s a good chance the product is highly processed and contains high quantities of chemicals and preservatives. You may want to choose a healthier alternative, one with a shorter ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, the first ingredient being the highest. It’s important to scan the list to see what the first few ingredients are because that’s what the bulk of the product is made of. Common sense plays a big role here, if you don’t know what a particular ingredient is or you can’t pronounce it, then it is probably a chemical or additive.
Next look at the calories, grams of fat (specifically saturated fat), cholesterol, sodium, sugars; these are the enemies, so, try and eat less of these. Foods containing high amounts of these can be harmful to your overall health and can contribute to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes. Simply choose foods with a low % Daily Value of these nutrients.
Lastly, make sure the values for protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins are high. These are beneficial to your health and well- being. Protein is important for repairing and building muscle, however, protein from animal sources (lean meat, fish, poultry) also contains fat and cholesterol so eat smaller amounts of these. Other sources high in protein are low-fat or skim milk, yogurt and cheese. Vegetable proteins like beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are considered super foods because they are also high in dietary fiber and other minerals.
However, if all this is still too confusing or overwhelming, there is the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System that can take the guess-work out of making healthy food choices.
So there you go, food labels in a nut shell! This basic information should be empowering and should help you make healthy food choices that will support your fitness efforts.