Always Read Nutrition Labels

Study nutrition labels for ingredients of packaged foods and their nutritional content.

Reading a nutrition label is the most basic skill every health conscious person should learn. Oftentimes, food manufacturers will market a product as healthy when in fact a breakdown of the ingredients will reveal a different truth.

For the sake of convenience, we will often look no further than the appealing front label of a product, which contains the desirable healthy-sounding catch words such as low fat, all natural and multi-grain. But, when you look more closely at the breakdown of ingredients, you may find chemical additives along with ingredients that are not healthy or nutritious at all. For example, a low fat product may contain hydrogenated oils or trans fats that are not healthy at all. And, recently, I read an article about how a “natural” product often used to flavor and color processed foods is made from the anal glands of a small animal!
Unfortunately, manufacturers can get away with attractive and colorful front labeling without having to define certain additives that may sound nutritious but are far from it. Nutrition labeling on the back of the product is where all the important information can be found. This is the only information you need in order to determine whether or not a product is healthy or not.

Here are some ingredients that it is important to avoid in packaged foods. They are detrimental to your health and will cause long-term health problems when consumed often.

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Enriched and bleached flour
  • Trans-fats
  • Foods with 10 ingredients or more – especially ones you cannot pronounce or identify
  • Artificial colorings
  • Refined sugar
  • Saturated Fats
  • High-Sugars (which, to name a few, can be disguised in terms such as fructose, brown sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, dextrin,  invert sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, beet sugar, honey, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt, molasses, and turbinado sugar)
  • High levels 0f sodium
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Sodium nitrate

Nutrition labels give us important information about calories, serving sizes, and ingredients. The upper half of the label contains specific information regarding the product’s caloric content, number of servings, and nutritional content. The nutrition facts label will help you determine the amount of calories and nutrients in a single serving of food. This is the information you need in order to determine if the food you are buying is part of a healthy and balanced diet.

It is also important to look at the number of servings that are in a portion of the food you are going to consume. What you  might consider a single serving of food could very well be listed on the nutrition label as two or more servings. Look closely at the “serving size” to determine how many servings you will be consuming to determine the exact calorie and nutrition count found within the food. This can be a bit deceptive as well. You may sit down to eat a whole small container of food just to find that the nutrition label shows that there are 6 servings contained therein! Where you thought the calories were for one single serving.

Ever since 1994, food manufacturers are obliged by the (FDA) Food and Drug Administration to include nutrition facts labels on their product packaging so that consumers have precise information on a food’s nutritional value. You can make use of food labels as a guide for planning meals and snacks. Food labels are required in nearly all foods, except those which do not offer many nutrients, such as alcohol, coffee, and spices.

What about dining out? I always appreciate when restaurants provide nutrition information in their foods but it is not yet a requirement. Though a few restaurants present information about the foods that they serve, at this point they are not required to have labels. The FDA suggests that sellers give nutritional information on products such as poultry, meat, and seafood, but it is voluntary.

The body requires the right mix of nutrients and vitamins to grow and function properly. Fresh foods that are pre-packaged sometimes include nutritional labels, too.

Most nutrients are measured in grams. Some nutrients are measured in milligrams. Milligrams are very small – there are 1,000 milligrams to 1 gram. On food labels, the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet for adults.

When you are in the supermarket, your best bet is to shop the perimeter of the store and avoid the inner sections where most packaged, processed foods reside. Processed foods offer little nutritional value. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables should be the focus of a healthy diet. Ironically it is the fresh fruits and vegetables that do not have packaging or nutritional information posted that are the most nutritious for you!

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