By: Rick Bellanti – Sept. 2018
When following a healthy diet, it is important to not only read the nutrition labels on the product you purchase but also understanding what all those numbers mean. Consumers look at food labels for different reasons but no matter what that reason is for each individual, the main goal is to be informed about the food you are buying (and consuming) and effectively use this information while following your healthy diet.
The label you find on products you purchase, will vary depending on each individual product and will be product specific however, more often you will see the most important information right away. Serving size, servings per container, calories per serving and dietary nutrition information are most common, such as sodium content, fiber and fats. It is important to know that most of these labels and nutrition daily values are typically based on the American 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets.
If you are serious about your health and your weight loss goals, it is very important that you learn how to read these product labels, or your weight loss will slow down or may even creep up on you, without you knowing why. The first two items to look for when reading a product label should always be “Serving Size” and “Servings Per Container” most people tend to just jump down to the calories right away, not realizing they are not correctly figuring out their calorie intake.
Always check the serving size, If there is only one serving per container, then yes, the calorie intake would be correct (if you consume the whole package at one sitting). However, if there are two or more servings in the package, then you need to know that if you eat the whole package at one sitting, you are consuming two or three times the amount of calories at that time. Remember that it also multiplies the nutrient level as well, so the sodium milligrams and fat could double or triple, if you don’t pay attention to serving size and that is where you’ll get into trouble.
After you figure out the amount of calories per serving, you need to look at the nutrients listed in the next section of the product label.
Typically, the next part of the label will have fats, cholesterol and sodium content. The fats may have three categories: total fats, saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are really bad for you, they raise your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and lower your HDL (the good cholesterol) and may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.
Be vigilant with your reading of product labels and really look into the numbers and of course the ingredients as well. For example, if a certain product claims to have 0 Trans fat, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has zero trans fats, it may have as little as a half a gram per serving. Check the ingredients list if you see products listed such as partially hydrogenated oils, that means it has trans fats. (not good)
Sugars, added sugars and hidden sugars are very tricky to catch if you don’t know what to look for. If you are concerned about your intake of sugars, make sure that added sugars are not listed as one of the first few ingredients. Other names for added sugars include: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, and maple syrup.
The next section of the product label will be the Fiber content and also vitamins, like vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron etc. These are all typically based on the American 2,000 calorie daily diet. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some of the diseases mentioned above.
When using the Nutrition facts label for a healthier you, remember these key points. Saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugars should be kept as low as possible or avoided at all costs. Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber, potassium, Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Good luck and happy label reading.
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015. You can find Rick on Facebook at: Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti