Reading Food Labels 101: Becoming An Informed Consumer
Grocery shopping can get confusing if you’re trying to shop healthy. These days you see marketing for gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, all natural and the list goes on. Most people are often mislead by marketing and end up purchasing products they think are good for them but actually aren’t.
If you want optimize your health, the single, simplest thing you can do is learn how to read a food label. We’re going to show you how, step-by-step.
Step 1: Read the ingredient list.
You should be able to read, write, say, spell and explain what all the ingredients are in a prepackaged food product. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, your body doesn’t either. Any ingredient that ends in “-ose” or “-itol” (i.e. dextrose, mannitol) is another way of saying sugar. Studies continue to show the addictive and detrimental effects of sugar so you definitely want to avoid eating any foods that are riddled with both natural and synthetic forms. Foods that contain corn, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup should be avoided since these sweeteners and preservatives are genetically modified and synthetically produced. These ingredients are poorly digested and related to a number of health conditions including metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes and obesity. You also want to be
Step 2: Take note of the calories per serving. Don’t be fooled by something that appears low calorie only to later find out the portion in unrealistic. Also keep in mind that if a food is “low-calorie” it means it typically contains one or more sweeteners such as aspartame.
Step 3: Look at the % Daily Value instead of the grams and milligrams. The best rule of thumb is to consider 5% as low and 20% as high. If there is an ingredient you want, you want the % daily value to be close to 20% or even higher. If it’s an ingredient you don’t want, you want the % daily value to be close to 5% or even lower. Ingredients such as saturated, unsaturated and trans fats as well as salt and carbohydrate intake should all be limited whereas potassium, fibre and vitamins and minerals should be consumed in high amounts. If a product claims to be high in a certain nutrient, make sure it actually is!! Take note: there is no recommended daily value for sugar or protein. We are not supposed to be eating sugar! Health Canada also believes that the average person consumes enough protein, which is why there is no % daily value. FYI: If you are trying to lose weight, you should not consume more than 25g of carbohydrates per day.
In an ideal world, you won’t ever eat foods that come in a package.