Attn: Health-nuts, grocery shoppers, and really anyone who consumes packaged foods. Lindsay, of Weeknight Bite, is sharing what you need to look out for on nutrition labels. Yes, you should be reading nutrition labels!! Sometimes things seem healthy, but actually contain harmful ingredients – we know, it’s complicated! Which is why we’re so glad Lindsay is here to share her helpful tips! And before you hit the store, check out what she eats in a day!
Lindsay says, Strolling through the snack aisles at your grocery store and trying to choose products that are actually healthy can be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry, once you understand what to look out for on nutrition labels, it becomes pretty easy to pick and choose the best products and become a savvier, healthier shopper! Let’s break it down:
1. Serving Size
Always look for the “servings per container”. When you buy a box of healthy crackers, you may assume it’s just one serving and overdo it with your portion size. Oftentimes, there are multiple servings in each container, so always double-check your serving size so you know exactly how much you’re consuming!
2. Trans Fats
Beware! Consumption of trans fats can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, while increasing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. They’re most often found in fast food, poor-quality hydrogenated oils, and processed commercial baked goods. Always look for 0 grams of trans fat on the nutrition label and avoid products that say “partially-hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list.
3. Dietary Fiber
Fiber is a complex carb that actually reduces the total carbohydrate content of a food. Put simply, net carbohydrates = total carbs – fiber… the higher the fiber, the lower the net carbs. So when you’re choosing between two different brands of bread (or pasta, or protein bars, or crackers, etc.), and everything looks pretty comparable on the nutrition labels and ingredient lists, but one of the options is higher in fiber, that’s the one I’d choose! The reason you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber into your diet is because fiber helps to slow digestion, keep you full for a longer period of time, and stabilize your blood sugar. You’re getting plenty of fiber from your veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains, but when it comes to packaged snacks, always look for products that have some dietary fiber in there.
You don’t need me to tell ya that sugar isn’t your friend, so always check out that sugar content on the nutrition label! Some sugars occur naturally, like in fruit and starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes – that’s fine in moderation! But many products have unnatural, added sugars, and you definitely want to be careful of those. You can tell when there are added sugars by reading the ingredient labels and watching out for anything like cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup (and any other syrup), fruit juice concentrate, glucose, invert sugar, and evaporated cane juice. The list goes on and on – take a minute to Google “different names for sugar” so you know what other sneaky sugars to look out for!
Above all, understanding the ingredient list is key to making healthy choices. Get comfortable reading the ingredients every time you buy a packaged product and be on the lookout for those hidden sugars mentioned above as well any colorings, additives, and artificial flavorings. I always tell my clients to ask themselves three questions when scoping out an ingredient label. 1 – Do you recognize most of the ingredients listed? 2 – Can you actually pronounce them? 3 – Do you trust them? Keep it simple and choose the products that have ingredients you recognize and trust! Otherwise, why put them in your body? Also, remember that the ingredients listed first on the label are the main ingredients, so if sugar is first, think twice!
Did you notice I didn’t mention calories – that’s because it’s literally the last thing on the label that I care about! I know so many of us women have spent way too much of our valuable time worrying about (or worse, counting) calories, but once you shift that focus over to eating high-quality foods and products with real ingredients that will make your body feel amazing, you won’t need to stress about calories anymore!