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Understanding Food Labels





Understanding Food Labels. A Must for Healthy Eating.

Understanding how to read a food label can help you make smart choices. If you are not familiar with reading food labels it might look intimidating at first but taking a few minutes to understand them can do you health so much good! Here are 10 quick tips on what to look at before deciding to put that package in your cart for check out or right back on the shelf.  Depending on your personal health status and goals the order of importance might have a slight change, but overall this is a great order to examine your food choice. 


#1 Serving size. Check  how many servings the package contains. The nutrition numbers on the rest of the label are for a single serving. Think about how much of it you would eat at a time.  If you eat two servings, multiply the numbers by two. Now does it look as “healthy” as it did at first?

#2 Fiber. Fiber is your Friend! Try to get 20-30 grams of dietary fiber per day. So important for your health yet so overlooked. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans are good sources of fiber. Fiber keeps you full.

#3 Protein. 45-55g of protein is the recommendation for the average person. Protein helps balance digestive hormones, keeps you full and so important for overall health. 

#4 Total Sugar. In my personal opinion, next to serving size this is the most important thing to watch on food labels. It is estimated 75-90% of Americans exceed the recommended daily grams of sugar. OUCH!  (36 g for men and 25 g for women).  Foods and beverages high in added sugars tend to be higher in calories and are negatively associated with several health problems.   Labels show both total and added sugars. The less added sugar the better.

#5 Carbohydrates. The total carbohydrates listed on a food label include sugar, complex carbohydrate and fiber, (sugars, starches, and fiber) Try to aim for most of your carbs coming from fiber.

#6 Calories. How many calories are in one serving? If you’re trying to lose weight, tracking your caloric intake is important. Is that serving size really worth all the calories that come with it or are you getting a good calorie to serving size deal? Also where your calories are coming from makes a world of difference in meeting your health goal. 

#7 Total fat. Look for what type of fat and how much. Most importantly is knowing what type of fat. Knowing your fats is important.   Good fats are good to include.

Saturated fat. This number is key for heart health. Foods with one gram or less per serving are considered low in saturated fat.

Trans fat. For healthy arteries and better overall health it is best to avoid trans fat. Look for foods with 0 grams of trans fat. Avoid items with hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated fat in processed foods is the main source of trans fats in foods.

#8 Sodium. Recommendation is no more than 2,300 mg per day. If you have cardiovascular disease and or hypertension the recommended maximum drops to 1,500 mg daily.  Yet the average person consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day, according to the AHA, and most of it comes from packaged foods. a

#9 Cholesterol. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests keeping your daily total intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg). Getting this from natural fats is best.

#10 Ingredients Aim for foods that have simple, non processed, natural , organic ingredients. Eating whole, real, nutritious foods is a must for overall optimum health and longevity. Stay away from artificial sweeteners, colors, and known harmful additives. If you have allergies make sure to watch for these in the ingredients also.  When most or all of your daily calories come from real food you feel your best!


 Get to know what your body needs for your goals and current health status! Also once you find a good option for staple foods stick with them!  If you feel you don't have enough time to read every label next time you're at the store, start with picking 2 staple foods and do this each time you grocery shop.  Once you have your "go to good selections" you'll have to read less and less labels each trip to the store. Also I highly recommend the free app Yuka. Use this next time you shop, simply scan the label and it will help you decide if you're making a good choice and why. 



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