Decoding the food label

When you pick up a box of food and look at the label do you ever think, “what does this all mean?”  Today we are going to decode the food labels.  A couple of things you want to look for on the label: protein grams, fiber grams, carbohydrate grams, sodium, fat and calories.  We are going to break this down as well as reading the ingredient list.

First, when you look at the label it lists the calories and the serving size.  When you go to eat the food make sure you are looking at the serving size and measuring it out.  1/2 cup of cereal does not look like much when it’s in a huge bowl.

Next on the label is fat grams.  The USDA recommends no more then 30% of your diet comes from fat.

Sodium is another area on the label you will want to look at.  The USDA recommends no more then 1200 mg of sodium per day.  There are 500mg in 1 teaspoon of salt.

Total Carbohydrates is next on the list.  Some people try to stay under a certain number of carbs per day and some people don’t.  I like to tell my clients to take the protein grams plus the fiber grams then subtract the carb grams.  It the total is 15 or less you can eat it, if it is higher then 15 put it back on the shelf.

Dietary Fiber is typically pretty low on boxed/canned goods.  You want to make sure you are eating at least 25-30 grams of fiber a day.  It is much easier to get fiber from whole fruits and veggies then boxed foods.  When looking at the label make sure it has some fiber in it.  If it says 0 grams, put it back on the shelf.

Protein is the next one to look at.  The USDA recommends 60 grams of protein a day for women.  I prefer 80-100 grams per day.  Protein helps you to feel full and it keeps you feeling fuller for a longer time.  Plus protein helps with building lean muscle and reducing body fat.

Reading the ingredient list:  My rule is if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it.  Try to avoid food dyes, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrup and aspartame.

Food labels can be hard to understand but hopefully this post helped you to decode the puzzle of food labels so next time you are at the grocery store you can look at a food label with new understanding.

food label

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