Reading Nutrition Labels

There are thousands of products at the store, each with different strategies to get you to buy their product over the competition. The best way to decipher which is really best is to read the nutrition label. This, however, can be complicated as well and sometimes misleading. Here are a few tips and tricks on what to look for when shopping at the store. The more informed you are, the more likely you are to make healthier choices.

Check Serving Sizes: 

  • Some foods that seem like they are single serving are actually 2 or 3. This means that even though the nutrition label says 100 calories, if you eat the entire bag or drink the entire bottle you’re actually consuming 200 or 300 calories.

Be Aware of Healthy Claims with Unhealthy Contents: 

  • Low-fat or fat-free items often have extra sugar or sodium for better flavor. Sugar-free items often have extra fat or other carbohydrates. Low-calorie choices can have added sodium. Gluten-free items have added sugar and fat. Make sure to read the entire nutrition label, not just the call outs on the front of the package.
  • Look out for trans fat. Crackers, chips, and cookies are popular traps. Make sure to read the ingredients list to steer clear of partially hydrogenated oil & vegetable shortening which contain trans fat.
  • Low-calorie sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol can have a laxative effect, causing abdominal cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Instead of choosing fat-free, look for ones that contain healthier oils, especially MUFAs and PUFAs.
  • Instead of choosing sugar-free, opt for whole foods like fruits that also have fiber which slows absorption of the natural sugars

Don’t Fall For Buzzwords: 

  • Eggs are often labeled “cage-free”. While it may indicate chickens are not locked into cages, they may still be in very crowded rooms
  • Eggs labeled “all natural” do not refer on how the chicken is raised, it only means that the eggs have no artificial colors of flavorings added to them.

Look for the Good Stuff: 

  • Find foods high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium

Don’t Fall for Healthy Imagery:

  • Ever notice how some products have pictures of kids playing sports or over muscular men? Don’t let those pictures sway your decision. The FDA does not regulate the use of creative brand names or photos.

References:

  • “Decoding nutrition labels informed consumers make healthier choices at the grocery store.” (2014, June 27). Retrieved from http://www.eagletribune.com/lifestyle/x1927807208/Decoding-nutrition-labels-Informed-consumers-make-healthier-choices-at-the-grocery-store?zc_p=0
  • “Label Me Confused.” Weight Watchers. May/June 2014. 28-30.
  • Lunsford, Mackensy. “How to sort out fraudulent foods.” (2014, July 22). Retrieved from http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/07/22/sort-fraudulent-foods/13022323/
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