Quickly & Easily Decipher Food Labels
Hey Good Lookin'!
Last week I told you my #1 tip for how to feed your body to look, feel, and perform better (hint: include ALL your macronutrients!).
In case you’re still feeling frustrated at the supermarket, I’m here to eliminate one more headache that most have faced or still do- deciphering food labels.
The first thing you want to do is turn the package around and find Ingredients.
Aim to buy products with as few ingredients as possible. If it sounds like a scientific word, it was probably made in a lab. Stick to the nature-made stuff as much as possible.
Before we go to the next step, let’s start with the basics: macronutrients.
Once you have a basic understanding of these, you can understand a Nutrition Facts panel a LOT easier 😎
Calories are energy and include the sum of all the energy sources our bodies can use to function and perform what we ask it to, such as exercise or tying our shoes.
Our bodies have three main sources of energy which we get from macronutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Carbohydrates are used by the body first and we have two types: simple carbs, or fast carbs which are from sugar, and complex carbs, which come from sources such as grains, oats, vegetables, and fruit - these contribute to your dietary fiber.
Fats are the body’s secondary fuel source and there are many types. On this panel, we can see saturated fats and trans fat. Saturated fat is typically fat that hardens at room temperature, such as coconut oil. It’s gotten a bad rap but, in moderation, is quite heart-healthy 💓 Trans fat, however, is not good for cardiovascular health ❤️🩹
Protein is only used by the body as fuel as a last resort. If you are following a balanced diet, your body won’t need to resort to protein for fuel. Instead, protein gets used in the body to repair and grow your muscles & to keep your bones healthy 💪
OK! You are ready to move on so, look for Nutrition Facts next.
Calories shouldn’t be your main concern. Focus on the macronutrient content first, then look at calories. Really, first, you should note the serving size.
When you consider the caloric content, you should check out the serving size and do some quick math.
For example, no one I’ve ever met eats 2/3c of cereal. A serving size to a real person is a cereal bowl- so do the math, this should be reasonable per meal and based on your goals.
Also, probably stay away from cereal as they generally all have added sugars in the top 5 ingredients 😳
Ok, let’s break down what all this means.
Note that the percentages on the far right are based on a 2,000cal/day diet. Your needs may be less or more, depending on your goals.
We can see that there are 8g of fat total, 1g is from saturated fat (to know if this is good, we’d want to consider the source) and no trans fat 👌
1 gram of fat equals 9 calories, so, let’s do the math!
9 x 8 = 72 so 72 of the total 230 calories are coming from fat.
There is no cholesterol in this example so for now, just know there is good and bad cholesterol.
Watch out for excessive amounts of sodium as this will cause bloating, water retention, and can lead to serious health issues. 7% may be fine but that will depend on the rest of your meals. Will you be eating salted nuts or asian cuisine later? How much sodium (salt) have you already consumed for the day?
Pro Tip: I like to use Pink Himalayan salt instead of iodized table salt as it’s lower sodium and has more health benefits 😁
There are 37 carbohydrates in this item. We know that fiber (complex carbs) and sugar (simple carbs) are both types of carbohydrates.
1g of carbohydrates equals 4 calories.
If we multiply 37 x 4, we can see that 148 calories are coming from carbohydrates. MOST of which are from sugar, or simple carbs - the ones we want less of than complex carbs.
Even more important, we can see that 10g of sugar (40 calories) are added sugars (not naturally occurring) and equate to 20% of our total daily “sugar allowance” which - in reality, should come from sources such as fruit and vegetables - not refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, for example.
Let’s also remember that this 20% figure is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so if your dietary needs are less, that means this would be more than 20% of your daily recommended maximum sugar intake!
Now, remember that your actual serving size (especially if it's cereal) is probably at least 2-3 servings... That means what was already high in sugar is in actuality now looking like half or more of your daily recommended maximum sugar intake.
95% of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily fiber
intake amount of 21-25g for women & 30-38g for men, according to the Mayo Clinic. So be sure to pay special attention and ensure you’re eating enough fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Like carbohydrates, 1g protein is also 4 calories. Your body can’t process more than 35-40g of protein at a time so, just keep it below that but high enough to hit your daily targets.
Unless you're just looking for a bit of added protein (like throwing some nuts or seeds into something), this here definitely won't cut it
If the fat content is high, the caloric content will be as well. There are 9kcal/gram of fat. If the product in question is a healthy fat source (fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, some cheeses), don’t stress about this, just consume in moderation.
If the carbohydrate content is high, look for added sugars (make sure this is not a significant contributing factor), fiber (healthy), and of course, consider the source. If this is a natural grain, for example, these are complex carbohydrates and a healthy necessary macronutrient.
I hope this insight into deciphering food labels is useful to you, beautiful!
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out
With all my love,
PS- Know someone who could use a few tips on healthy food shopping? Save them some serious headaches (and a lot of time)- share this post with them