Dieting 101: Food Labels Don’t Lie

Nutritional labels on food items can be a lot more revealing than most people give them credit for. Don’t be so quick to glance away next time you are grocery shopping. This is one “sticker” that deserves a second glance, and a full post (if not more!) dedicated to it.

5% or less is considered low; 20% or more is considered high
5% or less is considered low; 20% or more is considered high

What to look for in a label:

Calories alone don’t matter; you need to associate them to the serving size. Take the image to the left, the serving size is 2.5 pieces and accordingly the calories are calculated based on the size mentioned. If you end up eating the container and happily thinking you just had 30 calories, then it’s no wonder that scaled hasn’t budged. Ok that’s a little mean, but it’s just to point your attention to the importance of reading food labels. This item contains 3 servings (each serving is 2.5) which totals to 90 calories. Same goes for chips and chocolate labels – Yes you can go check, I’m telling the truth – Put that chocolate bar down now and step away.

I”m only humoring you by adding this here – since it is pretty obvious. After you check serving size, read the calories because really, some foods aren’t worth those extra kgs.

Heart-clogging ingredients:
This is quite literal. There are some items that our hearts just cringe at. In nutrition we refer to these as “saturated fats”. Add to that:
“trans fats”
and to a lesser degree “sodium”

Rule of thumb, the lesser you consume from these the better. Therefore the less calories that come from them the better.

Heart-healthy ingredients:
Good old fashioned makes-you-bloated fibers . High fiber foods help decrease cholesterol and the risk of colon cancer. It also helps make you feel fuller for longer and hence eat less. All around, this is something you want to find more of in your food labels (not the sugars! just the fibers).

Dieting 101: Food Labels Don't Lie
Did you notice the serving size and calories?
2tbsp = 110calories. OUCH!

For my more curious readers, you can even go further and read the ingredients listed.
In general, the items are written in order of “weight”. So the highest used ingredient in the food item is written first, then the second and you get the idea. If you squint really hard, you can see that the first item here (on the right) is: CORN SYRUP, followed by  HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
which tells us that the 2 highest ingredients in this food item are SUGAR. Yep, those are just different names for SUGAR. You want to avoid sugars and their ugly sisters where ever you find them.

This is a very brief way to better understand food labels; they really have good intentions with those – no one intends on confusing you with big words that just mean sugar – just learn the tips and tricks behind them and you’ll be fine.

I can even make this one step easier, feel free to email me with snapshots of food labels that have you confused, and I’ll gladly upload them on the blog with a detailed answer.

P.S: It might be useful to print this for your next grocery shopping visit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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