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Nutrition

Reading Food Labels Properly

Knowing what is in the foods you eat is so important if you want to live a healthy lifestyle.  Researchers have found that those who took a few extra seconds to read food labels ate 6% less fat than people who did not! 

I think we can all agree that deciphering these labels can be a bit overwhelming.  All the terms, the measurements:  it can be taxing at times.  But you really don't have to read every single word and line to get a good idea of what it is you are putting into your body.

Every word on a food label has a meaning, so educating yourself on the definitions behind the words can help you to choose foods that will be good for your body.  It will only take a few seconds to glance at the labels, but you can quickly size up a product and determine if it is good for you, or if you should pass it by.

Knowing how to read food labels can be especially helpful if you know you need to include more of something in your diet.  Doctor says you need more fiber?  Then make sure the food label reads a higher fiber content.  Need to lose weight and cut back on your fat?  Chose food whose labels have a low fat content.

Now obviously, fruits and vegetables will not come with labels.  These foods come as they are with no hidden surprises.  The foods we want to check into more thoroughly are the ones that are packaged.   

How Do I Check Food Labels?

Let's take a look below at some of the most common descriptions found on food labels:

Fat Content: Always start here.  Eating less fat is important in maintaining our health, proper weight, and  vitality.  Your consumption of fat should never be above 30 percent of your total calories for the day: approximately 50  grams a day. Check the label and see what the percentage of fat is.  If the percentage is high, you'll be better off to pass it up.

Fiber Content: Your total fiber intake a day should be around 25 to 30 grams a day.  Proper fiber consumption helps to lower cholesterol, prevent constipation, and improve your blood sugar, as well as help you to deter heart disease and stroke.   

Sodium: You want your sodium intake per day to be below 2400 mg.  Many processed foods are loaded with sodium, so make sure you keep this number as low as possible when selecting your foods.

Calories: You need to use your discretion here.  Make sure the amount of calories in a particular food is  reasonable.  You would be surprised how some packaged foods over inflate their calorie count!  Most of us need about 2000 calories a day to maintain a healthy body, so make sure all the food you eat in one day does not go overboard on the  calorie count.

Nutrients: Food labels will not list every single vitamin and mineral included in the food.  The most common nutrients that will be listed, though, include calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.  Each nutrient will come attached  with a percentage (known as the Daily Value) that will let you know how much of that nutrient can be found in one serving  of the food you are looking at.  So for example, if calcium has a daily value of 20 percent in a particular food, then you will need to consume another 80 percent of calcium to get in the required daily amount.

Listing of ingredients: Ingredients on a label are listed in descending order by weight, giving you an idea of how much an ingredient is included as compared to the others listed.   

I have a basic rule of thumb I try to follow when selecting my foods.  I do not believe that foods should be overloaded with a host of ingredients that cannot be pronounced or understood.  If it seems like the food label is  flooded with chemicals and preservatives, it is probably best to pass it up.  These processed foods are not nearly as good for you as whole foods in their original state.

Reading food labels can really provide you with a lot of information beneficial to you.  Be smart when you shop, take a few extra seconds to read the food labels, and you will be on your way to becoming a healthy shopper!

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Nothing on this site is a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. You should  not use this site as a substitute for professional medical advice. For serious ailments, or if symptoms persist, you must  see a medical
professional. You should not stop taking prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.


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