Deciphering Food Labels: No Degree Required

Reading a food ingredients label - personal training at Transformation in Raleigh

As we walk down the aisles of the grocery store today we are bombarded with brightly colored packages that advertise thirty percent less fat, no high fructose corn syrup and zero grams of trans fat. Nowadays even Girl Scout cookies advertise zero grams of trans fat. That makes them healthy, right? WRONG! There are certain buzz words that the media has conditioned the average consumer to try to avoid, such as high fructose syrup, trans fat, saturated fat and MSG. But not having these additives in your foods doesn’t necessarily make them healthy. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in nutrition to truly eat healthy.

Here are a few quick and simple tips to help you decide what to buy:

  1. Don’t get caught up with the bright advertisements on the front of the package. Manufacturers have a way of highlighting the positive aspects of their product and hiding the negative things when designing their packaging. Instead of focusing on the front of the package, turn it over and look at the list of ingredients and nutrition information.
  2. When looking at the list of ingredients you don’t need to be an expert. If you see a list of ingredients that is longer than your weekly grocery list, it’s probably best to put it back on the shelf. Next, actually read the list of ingredients. If there are more than a couple of ingredients that you do not recognize and can’t pronounce, put it back and step away!
  3. It is also important to look at the nutrition information. The top half of the chart lists calories, fat, sodium and other things you generally want to see low percentages of. The bottom half of the chart lists fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals; things you want to see a lot of.

These are just a few guidelines to help with your next trip to the grocery store. In my next post I will go over specific additives to avoid and why.

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