Use this guide when reading food labels in the supermarket and also apply the info to looking at the nutritional information of foods at restaurants. Almost all restaurants post their nutrition guides on-line and some now have them on the menus or on a poster on their wall. Click here for more info on dining out.
You need to read the "ingredient list". Don't just believe what the front of the package is telling you. "Light", "Healthy", "95% Fat-Free" ; these and other claims are not always what they seem:
· Free: Example: fat-free. This means that the food product has an insignificant amount (less than .5 gram/serving).
· Low: Example: low-calorie or low-fat. This means that the food product does not have much of a certain nutrient, but it has enough to make a difference in your diet. Specifically, low-fat means 3 grams or less of total fat; low-saturated fat means one gram or less; low-cholesterol means less than 20 milligrams; and low-calorie means 40 calories or fewer per serving.
· Lean: This term refers to meat. Lean means one serving has less than 10 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
· Extra lean: This term also refers to meat. This means that one serving has less than 5 grams of total fat and 2 grams of saturated fat.
· Less: This means there is 25 percent less of a certain ingredient or nutrient as compared to a similar product.
· Reduced: This means the product was nutritionally altered to meet a health claim.
Ingredients are listed in descending order according to their quantity in that food. The first three or four ingredients listed usually make up most of the product. Keep in mind, however, that fat and sugar come in many different forms; even if they are not one of the first three ingredients, the food can still be very high in fat and/or sugar.Read the ACTUAL ingredients and know what those words mean. Yes, it takes longer - this is the hard way - and it's worth it!
Pay close attention to these details on each label:
· Serving size: The amount of food the information refers to.
· Servings per container: The number of servings in the entire product or package. - This one is VERY important. One package or can or bottle does not always contain one serving. For example, take a look at the next bottle of soda you pick up and notice how many servings it contains!
· Percent daily values: Shows how a food fits into an overall daily diet based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.
· Calories: The total number of calories in one serving of this food.
· Calories from fat: The total number of calories from fat in one serving of this food.
· Total fat: The weight of fat (in grams) in one serving of this food.
· Saturated fat: The weight of saturated fat (in grams) in one serving of this food.
· Trans fat: The weight of trans fat (in grams) in one serving of this food.
· Sodium: The weight of sodium (in milligrams) in one serving of this food.
· Protein: The weight of protein (in grams) in one serving of this food.
· Total carbohydrates: The weight of both complex and simple carbohydrates (in grams) in one serving of this food.
· Sugars: The weight of simple carbohydrates (in grams) in one serving of this food; to find out how many complex carbohydrates are in the food simply subtract sugars from total carbohydrates. 4 grams = 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Try this link to easily convert cooking quantities
Words to Look For
Words to Avoid
- An ingredient list that has the fewest ingredients is usually your best bet.
- whole wheat
- whole grain (words that mean whole grain)
- olive oil
- canola oil
- soybean oil (not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated)
- low sodium
- If the ingredient list is a paragraph full of words you can't pronounce or understand; it's best to avoid it.
- partially hydrogenated
- high fructose corn syrup
- enriched flour
- cottonseed oil
- coconut oil
- palm oil
- sugar (words that mean sugar) Sugar does not have to be avoided completely. However; keep added sugars to a minimum. Once you start reading labels you'll be amazed at how many foods are full of it!