Reading the Labels

So how many of you actually read the food labels on boxed and canned items? If you’re not taking the time to read what you are putting in your body, chances are very likely you are making some pretty unhealthy choices with food.

Let’s work from top to bottom on a food label and discuss the major areas you should focus on when deciding on a food.

First check the serving size and number of servings in the container. There are a number of products that you may consume every day that have more than one serving in their packaging: Vitamin Water, soda, canned soups, chips, etc. Knowing the serving size is important because it’s possible to consume double or maybe even triple the amount of calories without knowing.

You should also pay attention to the portion of calories that are “from fat.” You certainly want to make sure that the majority of calories are not attributed as fat calories.

It goes without saying that it’s important to keep both saturated and trans fats to a minimum. Both types can clog your arteries and lead to a number of health problems including obesity and heart disease.  I caution you about “fat free.” Just because it is “fat-free” doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want!

You will also notice that the “% Daily Values” column. The numbers in this column are calculated based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. These values are just an estimate but provide you with a good guideline to know how much of the daily allowances you are consuming with a portion of that food.

Another dangerous ingredient often found in pre-packed foods is sodium. Healthy adults should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day and anyone with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes should try and keep their consumption to around 1,500 mg per day. Take a good look at the listing of sodium on some of your favorite packaged products and I think you might re-think that purchase.

When it comes to sugar a good rule of thumb is the more sugar the more calories. Keep your sugar consumption to a minimum. Many fruits and even vegetables contain natural healthy sugars. What you want to avoid is the white granular sugars and thick syrups that are added to food to preserve the product and enhance taste.

Dietary fiber found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes has a variety of positive health benefits including normalizing bowel movements, lowering blood cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels. Depending on age and gender you should consume 21 – 38 grams of fiber per day.

When it comes to protein many Americans far exceed the recommended daily amount. Depending on your sex, age and gender you need between 40 and 70 grams of protein per day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some foods that you can’t avoid buying pre-packaged so tomorrow I’ll give you some advice on the types of ingredients to look for and those to avoid when it comes to purchasing manufactured foods.


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