7 Common Nutrition Label Mistakes to Avoid

Get grocery savvy with these food label tips.

Are your food label mistakes costing you inches and pounds? Even if you’re in the habit of reading nutrition labels regularly, you may still be making errors that add up on the scale. While food labels can look intimidating, they’re actually an excellent tool that will help you lose weight and keep it off. Start making positive changes today by learning these 7 Common Nutrition Label Mistakes to Avoid.

1. You don’t realize that sugar has many, many names.

Refined sugar is in everything from granola bars to frozen waffles to salad dressings to pasta sauces. All those grams add up – which means they end up in your thighs. If you want to learn how to read nutrition labels, here are a few sneaky sugar sources to look for:

Cane juice
Carob syrup
Corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrate
High fructose corn syrup
For a full list, see 50 Names for Sugar and then try these No Sugar Added Skinny Desserts.

2. You buy “sugar free” products.

Okay, so now that you know to look for refined sugar, it’s okay to buy sugar-free foods, right? Not necessarily. It’s not unusual for sugar-free foods to contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, erythritol, polydextrose, sorbitol, or sucralose. Research suggests that these ingredients alter your metabolism and increase weight gain. Learn more in The Truth About Artificial Ingredients and Weight Gain.

3. You don’t read serving sizes.

It happens to everyone. You look at a snack nutrition label and see that the food contains only 100 calories, so you dig in. And dig in. And dig in. But that calorie count is for 10 crackers – not the 22 you just inhaled. Nutritional information is based on a specific number or weight of a product, and those numbers don’t do you any good if you’re overeating. Make portions easy with our 5-Day Menu Plan with Perfect Portions and check out 6 Easy Ways to Reduce Portion Size.

4. You don’t look for lean meat or poultry.

Not all ground products are created equally. When you purchase meat or poultry, always look for the percentage of product made from lean sources, which is the first number in the rating listed. For example, a ground beef label reading 96/4 means 96% of the meat comes from lean cuts, and the remaining 4% is from non-lean meat. Check out our 15 Yummy Entrées Made with Ground Turkey or try lean Slow Cooker Texas Style Beef Brisket.

5. You choose processed foods made with “whole grain.”

A processed whole grain food isn’t necessarily healthy, even if it offers one or more servings of whole grain. It can still contain refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, excess sodium, and other questionable ingredients. Learn to make your own clean-eating Whole Grain Yeast Rolls or Homemade Whole Grain Tortillas.

6. You think “low” and “reduced” mean the same thing.

“Reduced” means the food has at least 25% less of a particular ingredient than normal. For example, reduced sodium soup might still contain a whopping 400 milligrams per serving. That’s a lot, considering the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams per day [1]. In contrast, a food labeled “low sodium” must not contain more than 140 milligrams per serving. Use low-sodium (not reduced) chicken broth to prepare our tasty Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup or Slow Cooker Chicken Chili.

7. You assume processed foods labeled “natural” are healthy.

When you’re learning how to read nutrition labels, it’s important to understand that “natural” is a vague term not specifically defined by the FDA. As a result, a packaged food might use “natural” ingredients but still contain too much refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. Check out our Clean-Eating Recipes for hundreds of healthy meal ideas that incorporate minimally-processed foods.

Slim that middle! Start our 6-Week Flat Belly Program. This ebook includes ab-building, calorie-burning workouts along with a clean-eating guide to tasty, healthy recipes.

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[1] American Heart Association

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The SkinnyMs. team believes that all people, regardless of age, size, and fitness level, have the power to transform their lives — they just need the resources to do so. The SkinnyMs. method promotes healthy living through a combination of clean eating and regular exercise. We offer everything you need to be successful.

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