Reading food labels will help you make healthier choices quickly when shopping for food:
If you’re like me, you don’t have time to fuss around at the grocery store, debating on whether or not a food should make its way off store shelves and into your shopping basket. Let alone reading food labels! With a full-time job, half-time sanity, and all-the-time kids with their beaks open like hungry little birds, I need to make a quick decision on what to buy. Although food labels may look complicated, they can be decoded fairly easily and quickly, once you learn a few tricks. These 5 fast tips will help you save some time so you can get in and get out, and feed everyone in the nest something nutritious.
Tip #1: Check the ingredients list BEFORE the nutritional facts.
If a package of food contains ingredients that are known to cause health problems, then it doesn’t matter how many grams of protein, fat, or carbohydrates are in each serving. The food is simply not a healthy food. The top 10 ingredients to look for and avoid are:
High-fructose corn syrup, the #1 source of calories in America, which increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to overeat and gain weight.
Artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Sucralose, and Saccharin), which are far worse for you than plain sugar and research shows them to be associated with weight gain.
Food dyes such as blue 1 and 2, green 3, red 3, and yellow 6, which have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a processed “flavor enhancer” and has been shown to seriously screw with brain chemistry when consumed in large amounts.
Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are two different preservatives believed to cause colon cancer and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT), potentially cancer-causing preservatives that can seriously mess with your hormones.
Potassium bromate, an additive used to increase volume in breads and pastries and is known to cause cancer in animals.
Hydrogenated oils such as palm oil, corn oil, or soybean oil, which raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lower your “good” HDL. These fats also increase your risk of blood clots and heart attack.
Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate, which have been linked to serious thyroid damage and may have cancer-causing effects.
Sulfur dioxide, a toxic additive that has been banned by the FDA on raw fruits and vegetables but still found in other foods. It destroys vitamins B1 and E, and can contribute to breathing problems and cardiovascular disease.
Tip #2: A shorter list is usually a better list.
When reading food labels, if an ingredient list is excessively long, there is a good chance that it contains food additives, preservatives, and other ingredients that aren’t very good to put into your body. Simple is better.
Tip #3: Check the serving size and amount of servings.
Not all packages contain only one serving, which can be misleading when you read the nutrition facts. For example, if you see that there are only 4 grams of serving for each serving size, but there are 4 servings per container, there are really 16 grams of sugar in the whole package.
Tip #4: Use the <10> rule.
A rule of thumb for deciding if a food has a high amount of protein (good) or too much sugar (bad): Protein should be in double digits (>10 or more grams) and sugar should be in single digits (< less than 10 grams). The American Heart Association recommends that the maximum amount of sugar you should eat in a day are:
- Men: 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons)
- Women: 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
Currently, the average American currently eats 82 grams (19.5 teaspoons) of added sugars a day!
Ideally, no added sugar is the best amount of sugar. Of course, there are sugars occurring naturally in some foods such as fruit, so just read the label to check if sugar has been added to the product or not. If it isn’t listed, it’s naturally occurring and doesn’t have as much of a detrimental effect on your body. Remember that there are many different names for sugar. In fact, there are about 61 of them, which include:
|Agave nectar||Demerara sugar||Mannose|
|Barbados sugar||Dextrin||Maple syrup|
|Barley malt syrup||Evaporated cane juice||Muscovado|
|Beet sugar||Free-flowing brown sugars||Palm sugar|
|Buttered syrup||Fruit juice||Powdered sugar|
|Cane juice||Fruit juice concentrate||Raw sugar|
|Cane juice crystals||Glucose||Refiner’s syrup|
|Cane sugar||Glucose solids||Rice syrup|
|Carob syrup||Golden syrup||Sorghum Syrup|
|Castor sugar||Grape sugar||Sucrose|
|Coconut palm sugar||HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)||Sugar (granulated)|
|Coconut sugar||Honey||Sweet Sorghum|
|Confectioner’s sugar||Icing sugar||Syrup|
|Corn sweetener||Invert sugar||Treacle|
|Corn syrup||Malt syrup||Turbinado sugar|
|Corn syrup solids||Maltodextrin||Yellow sugar|
|Dehydrated cane juice||Maltose|
Tip #5: Know the WHOLE story.
Don’t fall for bread or pasta products that advertise “made with organic flour” or “made with unbleached flour.” Although they sound healthy, all they probably really contain is refined flour (bad). Make sure the ingredient list says “whole-grain wheat,” or whole-grain of whatever grain it contains (bran, oat, etc.). Here’s a quick look at the difference between whole vs. refined grains, and why it is important to choose whole-grain:
Whole grains. These unrefined grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling, which means that all their nutrients remain intact. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.
Refined grains. In contrast to whole grains, refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and longer shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Refined grains will not keep your blood sugar levels steady, which is why you will be hungry again soon after consumption.
When reading food labels at the grocery store, remember that there is a lot of fluff. Keep my tips in mind and make the good choices.
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