Trying to eat healthier, but you’re so confused by the nutrition labels + ingredients section when buying food?
I get it. Believe me! It took me years before I really understood what to look for when shopping for healthier items each week.
But, if you’re truly wanting to lose weight, have more energy, + create a healthy lifestyle that lasts, you need to know how to read both the nutrition + ingredients section of every food you purchase.
Knowing how to decipher between a healthier food versus one packed with chemicals will be what truly makes the most difference when it comes to not only seeing, but also feeling results.
In this post, I go over the basics for both the nutrition facts label + ingredients section that is on the side/back of most food that you purchase so you can make healthier, more informed decisions each week!
Let’s dive in…
THE NUTRITION FACTS
The nutrition facts are usually on the back or side of the package + include 4 sections: serving size, calories, nutrients, + percent daily value. Let’s break down how to read each + what to looks for/avoid:
The serving size is what the retailer is using to break down all other information on the nutrition label. It’s important to understand exactly what the serving size is + how much you will actually want to consume when you eat the product. Many times, it’s much smaller than we think. So, we end up overeating + having much more than we think. If you would eat 2-3x the amount on the package, make sure you do the math for all the facts listed below the serving size before making your decision to purchase.
Remember, calories are just a unit of energy. So, the calories section is just how many calories you will consume if you ate the serving size. If it’s more/less do the math so you know how much you would accurately be eating.
- Related: CALORIE COUNTING 101
This section includes information about fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, + vitamins. Let’s go over which you should try to get more of + those you should focus on limiting.
- Limit saturated/trans fats, sodium, + added sugars. These sections are often higher when products include ingredients that our bodies don’t need. The more these are included, the more processed the food is that you’re looking at.
- Look for more fiber, protein, + vitamins. These will help keep you full for longer, go to the bathroom more easily/regularly, + will give you nutrients your body needs.
% Daily Value
This section runs alongside the nutrients + gives you a rough estimate of the percentage of nutrients that the product offers for your daily value. Note, this is based on a 2,000 calorie diet so it isn’t 100% accurate to your personal needs. But, it should be close. The percentages help you gauge how nutritious the product really is, overall.
- Related: 9 WAYS TO EAT HEALTHY EVERY WEEK
The First 3-5 Ingredients
Personally, this is the absolute first place I look when assessing a food product before purchasing. Why? Because the first 3-5 ingredients will factor into whether I need to even look at the nutrition label. Ingredients on food packages are listed in order of greatest to least when it comes to quantity. So, if the first 3 ingredients are white flour, corn syrup, + sugar, I am definitely putting the product back on the shelf.
Instead, I want to look for healthier ingredients to make up the first few ingredients. If some not so wonderful ingredients make it on the lower part of this section, I don’t mind so much. It all depends on how much of it I plan to eat + how often. If I decide that the ingredients are fine, then I usually move on to the nutrition facts label.
Keep An Eye Out For Fake Ingredients
If you want to play it safe, try to only buy products where you know exactly what each ingredient is. If something is hard to pronounce or you’ve never heard of it, either put it back or take 15 seconds to Google it in the store. 9/10 times it’s probably not nutritious + the retailer is just trying to get away with adding harmful chemicals to the product to make it taste better [without you knowing!].
Rule of thumb: Look for products with 10 or fewer ingredients for optimal nutrition + look up anything you don’t understand. Then, move onto the nutrition facts.
- Related: 13 PORTION CONTROL HACKS