Hello Lappolis family, I hope this posting finds everyone well. Today I wanted to tackle the topic of label reading. I’ve found that label reading is often the first step to helping us make wiser food choices for ourselves and our families.
When I am trying out a new item, the first thing I do is check out the Nutrition Facts and zero in on the calories, fiber and protein content. Others may tend to focus on every item on the label or limit their reading to just the calories or just the sugar and fat content. It really just depends on your general health and your wellness goals.
The following tips below are really just an introduction to label reading to help you get started. For a more a detailed understanding The Food and Drug Administration website is a great resource for label reading. In the meantime, here are a few pearls to help you navigate food labels:
1) Start with the Serving size: You want to start here first to make sure your portions mirror the serving size. If you eat double the serving size listed, you have the bear in mind that you need to double the calories and other nutrient values. Often times, when I have a craving for my favorite gelato brand ( Talenti’s Carmel Cookie Crunch – you will thank me later if you haven’t tried this already :)), I often will portion half of the serving size in order to limit my sugar and fat intake.
2) Calories: This is listed under the serving size. This simply reflects the number of calories you will consume in one serving. This is particularly helpful when you are meal planning and are counting calories.
3) % Daily Value: This is a percentage daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet. As a general rule 5% or less is considered low and 20% or more is high in a particular nutrient listed on the label. This rule of thumb is especially helpful when looking at the % DV of fiber, protein, and total carbohydrates on a label.
4) Aim to limit your total fat, cholesterol and sodium: Let me start of by clarifying that fat, cholesterol and sodium are NOT evil, they are actually an important part of our diet, but they work best in moderation. A low-fat food typically has 3 grams or less of fat per serving. . A low sodium food has 140 mg or less in one serving. Also, as a general rule try to keep your cholesterol intake to 300 mg/day.
5) Look at the Ingredients: Under the Nutrition Facts you will find a product’s list of ingredients. You can really minimize your intake of complex sugars and saturated fats by quickly scanning the ingredients. As a general rule, less if often best and try to stay clear of ingredients you cannot process.
6) Always Compare and Contrast: Nani and I have both had experiences with grocery store” tours” where we participated in a guided tour that showed you how to make healthier choices while shopping. We both walked away with the importance of comparing brands. For example, you may find that your favorite yogurt has 26 grams of sugar however a similar brand may have only 8 grams. I also tend to compare brands for certain items such as cereal, nut butters(almond, soy, peanut,etc), ice cream/frozen yogurt/gelato, and breads. Key differences I look for are the sugar content, amount of protein, amount of fiber, absence of trans fat , absence of high fructose corn syrup,presence of whole grains, and the amount of natural ingredients.
Grocery Store Challenge:
This week, challenge yourself to find healthier substitutes for what you currently purchase. This is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet. You can start off small by looking for an alternative to your favorite breakfast cereal or dessert. Please feel free to leave us some of your favorites substitutes in the comment section below.
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