Deciphering food labels can be a big chore if you don’t know what you are looking for. So, Skinny Ms. has put together a few tips to get you in and out of the grocery store in a flash! After a long day, we know you don’t want to spend hours reviewing food labels! So, make these points your first to look at:
Serving Size. It is important to check the serving size and decide whether this is a realistic serving size for you and your family. If the serving size is half of a cup and you’re sure you will eat one-cup, keep that in mind as you read the rest of the pertinent nutrition facts. The nutrition facts are relevant to the serving size listed. So, if half a cup is the serving size and you know you’ll eat a cup – then all of the facts you look at next will double, for example, 8 grams of fat will now be 16 grams for you, etc.
Saturated Fats. These fats mainly come from butter, cheese, and lard, and they also increase your cholesterol levels. Experts suggest minimizing foods with high amounts of saturated fats. What is a high amount? Based on a 2,000- calorie diet, many experts suggest eating no more than 10% of the daily calorie intake.
Trans Fats. These fats are found in processed foods like boxed snacks and hydrogenated foods. They increase your risk of heart attack. So, you definitely want to check the label for this area. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting these foods to a maximum of 1% of their daily calorie intake. So, for most of us that would be 2 grams! Limit your consumption of cookies, crackers, and other commercially processed foods to avoid the risk of heart attack.
Carbohydrates. Many of us think carbs are the enemy, but if you consume the right carbs you will be full of energy and healthy, too. According to American’s dietary guidelines, you should consume 45-65% of calories via carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give you the energy you need to get through the day without needing energy drinks or foods. You can get good carbs from fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Fat. Fats can actually be good for you in moderation, but too much fat does cause weight gain. The trick is to learn what foods contain good fats and how much you can have. About 20% of your daily diet should be fat, so for a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume no more than 400 – 700 calories in fat a day. This equals to about 44 – 78 grams of fat a day. Which may seem like a lot, but if you are getting your fat from foods such as lean poultry, fish, and olive oils, you will be better off than if your fat came from pizza and burgers.
Protein. Protein is very important for your body. Protein promotes healthy muscle and a lean body. Protein should be limited to about 50 to 175 grams a day, if on a 2,000 calorie diet. You should look for protein from lean meats, beans, unsalted nuts, soy, and limited dairy products.
Sodium. Some sodium is good, it regulates different fluids in the body, but too much sodium will have you bloated, retaining water, and increase blood pressure. Limit your sodium to about 2300 milligrams or less a day. If you’re over 51, experts suggest less than 1500 milligrams a day of sodium. Avoid foods high in sodium.
Sugar. We saved the best for last, or should we say “worst.” Sugar can be good or bad, depending on where it is coming from. Your body uses sugar, whether natural or refined as energy for your body. Sugars from fruits are acceptable, but refined, processed sugars from cakes, pies, sweetened beverages, and candy are the culprit. Stay clear of these items if at all possible. The American Heart Association agrees sugar intake should be limited to 100 – 260 calories a day at the most. Try doing without it if at all possible.
Obviously, we didn’t list ALL of the nutrients to look for on the nutrition label, but be sure to pay special attention to when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. When you understand what these ingredients are used for and what to look for, it will make your life much easier and your grocery store trip much quicker! Enjoy!