Food labels are not a new thing. They’ve been on the sides and backs of our food for decades now.
The real question is: how do you read a food label?
It’s not hard but it can be confusing to know if you actually eat the serving size or eating way too much.
Let’s start with that bit of information first.
There are two different types of servings on each food label: serving size and servings per container.
The serving size is the most important. Serving size is the amount of food you can eat to get one serving of a certain kind of food.
Let’s say that something has 12 servings per container with 100 calories for each 1 cup serving. In that container, a serving is 1 cup. That means that you can eat 1 cup for 100 calories. Any extra cups after 1 serving means more calories.
It can be confusing because most people see a number of calories on the bag and assume that the whole bag is the calorie number listed. That’s the further from the truth.
Calories listed on the bag is a number of calories per serving. Don’t make the mistake and assume that just because the bag says 100 calories then that means it’s 100 calories for the whole bag.
If you eat the whole bag and there are 12 servings then you will have eaten 1200 calories versus 100 calories.
Be mindful of how much you’re eating because you only have so many calories to use per day.
Even though carbs aren’t important for most people, I will include them in this category.
You should really look at how much protein and sugars you are consuming per serving. With protein especially because you want to get around 30 grams per meal (around 4-6 ounces of protein for most meat products). Protein is listed on the label so be mindful of how much protein you are getting throughout your day.
Carbs are not a big deal but most of us eat way too many carbs and not enough protein. Carbs are good for a quick energy boost but with carbs also come sugar.
Watch your sugar intake.
This is where most people slip up. Sugar is a big problem for most of us. Unfortunately, it’s in almost everything we eat and we don’t even know it.
I try not to eat more than 60-70 grams of sugar a day. MyFitnessPal calculates this for me based on what I’m eating. That’s my average.
Sugar converts into fat if not burned off through exercise. So, unless you want to workout more than you have to, I would keep the sugar intake fairly low.
The ingredient list is another confusing part of the food label. Most labels list dozens of ingredients with most of them being hard to even pronounce.
I would suggest buying products that have the least amount of ingredients as possible. I know this is hard to do but most foods are pumped with so much that we don’t even know what we’re eating.
Don’t sweat it if you can’t avoid eating stuff with lots of ingredients. Just keep it in mind when you’re buying food.
Etc: Sodium, Saturated Fat, Added Sugar:
I already mentioned sugar, which most foods have. Avoid added sugar as much as possible. Added sugar is just extra sugar that you don’t need in your diet. Just don’t buy it if you can.
Sodium and saturated fat should be eaten in small doses. If you don’t have a problem with high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol then you may be OK. I would still limit how much of each you have in one day.
For those who have these issues, then I would monitor how much of each that you are consuming.
Food labels are confusing but they are easier to read as you start to compare and contrast them against other labels. Don’t worry about everything on the label. Focus on paying attention to things like serving size, calories, protein, sugars, saturated fats and sodium.
Once you learn how to read these labels, it makes avoiding overeating just a little bit easier.
Do you research food labels before you purchase food?