Navigating the Grocery Store – Reading Nutrition Labels

Hi Friends!

No wonder we have so much trouble choosing nutritious foods! There are labels everywhere! Some of them are difficult to decipher, at best. Last night, we talked about the NuVal scoring system, which I have found is very helpful when I am trying to decide if one type of food has a higher nutritional value. The NuVal labels are found right with the pricing information on the shelf. But what about the labels on the actual food packages? One of the best things you can do to improve your nutrition is to buy foods without labels; in other words, whole foods that are in their fresh, raw state – again, mainly from the outside aisles of the grocery store.

I realize that this is not always realistic, so it’s better to be armed with information about what to look for on a food label when you do need to buy packaged foods. I got the graphic of the food label from Reading Food Labels- Children’s Hospital – Los Angeles. This example appears to be for graham crackers. The first thing to note is the serving size. In this example, the serving size is 8 crackers or 2 full sheets. One of the most important things that I always look for on a food label that isn’t highlighted on this sample is the amount of sugar. This particular package has 7 grams of sugar per serving of 8 crackers. That’s the equivalent of a little less than 2 tesaspoons of sugar. That’s really not too bad, but if you’re going sugar-free, you would not want this product. The next thing I would look at is the ingredient list to see what type of sugar the product contains. We’ll talk about this part more tomorrow. I would definitely want to see a natural sweetener like honey.

Depending on your eating plan, this label tells you quite a bit. If your carbs are restricted, you would know whether this product is good for your diet. You can see how much fat and sodium the crackers contain. When I read the fat content, it’s not only important to know how many grams of fat are in the food, but the source of the fat as well. If I read the ingredient label and see that the crackers are made with canola, soybean, hydrogenated vegetable oils, I am putting it right back on the shelf. I want to  know what kind of flour the product is baked from as well, and I’d be watching for artificial ingredients and things that I can’t pronounce. It’s very important to know how to read the nutrition facts in conjunction with the ingredients so you can tell if you are getting a nutrient dense food.

By looking at this label, I can see that the crackers in this box are not overly loaded with nutrition and are heavy on the carbohydrates. Fiber is listed as part of the total carbohydrates, so if there were a higher fiber number, the higher carbohydrate grams wouldn’t be so bad. This serving of crackers, though, is very low in fiber. There aren’t really any vitamins or minerals, not much protein, or other nutrients. If I was seeing this in the grocery store, I would probably put this back on the shelf. It’s 120 empty calories per serving, and a guaranteed insulin spike. If this product happened to have a NuVal code assigned, my guess is it would be fairly low.

Tomorrow night, we’ll actually look at an ingredient label to see exactly what’s in our food. Do we really want to know? You bet! We need to know because our health and the health of our families depends upon what we are eating. Make good choices…

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The nutrition facts listed on food labels are for one serving only.   Note the serving size and total servings per container at the top of the label.

The graphic below has been designed to help provide you with a basic overview of the major nutritional information sections on a food label.

How to read a Food Label

THIS TOOL DOES NOT GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.            

It is for informational use only. It does not take the place of getting advice from a doctor for diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore your doctor’s advice or wait to get medical help because of something you have read on this site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 right away.  Read disclaimer information

 

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