You can get so much information from that little white label on the backs of products! Between the nutrition facts and the ingredients list, you have the power to tailor foods to your needs and/or desires.
This time of year, many different diets take an uptick in trendiness. Figuring out a diet plan is one thing, but figuring out how a product fits into that diet plan is a completely different thing. How do you know what to look for?
The task is not as tricky as it may seem. We’ve come up with a couple good “Rules of Thumb” for reading a label.
If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! Real food is understandable. There are a few exceptions, but hopefully, those are obvious. For example, Xylitol is a great sweetener. It doesn’t affect blood sugar, but it definitely sounds like it came from outer space. Xanthan gum? Not that awesome. It’s essentially mold. But be careful, some ingredients that are hard to pronounce are simply the scientific names of normal ingredients. Best example? Baking soda. Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate. Harmless, food for baking, and almost always used in very small doses.
What’s up with sugar? Many products will have sugar listed in the carb section of your nutritional profile but have no sugar type ingredients in the ingredient list. This is because there are naturally occurring sugars. Yes, even in veggies. If sugar is in the ingredient list, you know it’s been added in. If it’s not and you still have sugar in the label, rest assured that it’s just a naturally occurring sugar.
It’s all about the balance. Whatever eating plan you are on is going to emphasize at one point or another a balance between macros. You can find that on the label! Make sure that the protein, carbs, and fat are balanced to suit your preference. Check those numbers first, and if it fits your plan, then read the ingredients.
Speaking of balance, make sure to check the serving size! They are often quite different than what you may be used to eating as your own personal idea of a serving size. This could dramatically change your decision to purchase.
Does it have a lot of the good stuff? Right below the macro information will be a list of the vitamins and minerals available in the food. These are based on your daily value. For example, if a product says “Vitamin C – 50%” then that means you’re halfway to your total daily intake for Vitamin C! If this list has a lot of zero’s, there’s a good chance it’s not a great product.
This is just a quick overview of nutrition labels. There is a lot more to it, but this should get you started. We hope it helps!