When you read articles by nutrition experts, you’ll often get advice about reading food labels whenever you buy processed foods of any kind. They tell you that doing this will help you avoid added sugars and other unhealthy ingredients, and it’ll help you cut down on your caloric intake, too.
When you read this kind of advice, do you ever think, “Have these people ever actually tried to read food labels before?” They seem like they should be simple enough, but these labels can often be overly complicated and misleading.
And trying to go by the advice of nutrition “experts” who say never to buy anything you can’t pronounce doesn’t work, either, because most ingredients lists use the chemical names for everything. That means you might think that you’re buying something with a lot of scary chemicals in it, but it’s really just ascorbic acid, a healthy vitamin that you need in your diet to maintain the health of your connective tissue. So how can you hope to understand food labels without spending a whole day (or more) in the store doing research every time you go shopping? At 2ToneFit, we love all aspects of health and fitness, so we thought we’d make things a little easier with a few helpful tips.
Look at the Serving Size and Total Calories
At the top of the nutrition label, you’ll see the serving size for the item you’re looking at. Pay close attention to this, as many manufacturers will deflate their serving sizes to make it look like they have low-calorie foods. Usually, there will also be an indicator that tells you “Servings Per Container”. This can help you get a better picture of how much of something you’d be allowed to eat in a serving, since it can be difficult to picture your food in grams or ounces without a reference.
If you’d usually consume more than the “serving size”, multiply the “total calories” by how much more you’d usually eat. Then you’ll have an idea of how many calories you’d actually be consuming if you ate it.
The Rest of the Label
Below the “total calories”, you’ll see the things you want to limit: saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugars. These are the things you want to limit for your diet. You’ll also see fiber, protein, and daily vitamins, which you want to make sure you get enough of. Remember that the percentages here are based on a 2000-calorie diet, so you’ll need to adjust your numbers if you’re a high-performing athlete who eats more than this or if you’re cutting weight and you’re eating less than this.
If you do your math on your own diet before you head to the store, you should be able to convert the serving sizes, amounts, and percentages quickly and easily. And, to make things even easier, stick to unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.