How to Read a Nutrition LabelSep 15, 2022
When you’re on a specialty diet such as paleo, keto, or gluten-free, you’ll learn why you need to be a good label reader. Not only are there foods you don’t want to eat when you’re on a speciality diet, there are also foods that you want to eat more of! Read on to find out guidelines you can use to simplify and learn more about reading food labels on your next trip (and subsequent trips) to the grocery store.
Real Food Doesn’t Need a Label
Unless you’re not sure what the food is, such as a fruit or vegetable you haven’t seen before, this rule applies. “Real food” is live food - such as fruits and vegetables, and we know what these are, they typically don’t need a label.
Good (or better food) that is mostly unprocessed also will not have more than five ingredients, all of which you should be able to read and pronounce. If you’re new to your speciality diet, there may be some natural sweeteners that you don’t recognize that are also OK to eat. You can always use your phone to Google them up and decide if the ingredient is right for you.
If your great-grandmother would recognize it, then it’s probably good food! Overly processed foods are harmful to our health and well being and should be avoided as much as possible. Eating junk food occasionally, while not optimal, is more realistic. Remember to not binge or fog eat - portion out your junk food, and all your food, so you know the amount of food you are eating.
How to Read Nutrition Facts on a Nutrition Label
Serving or Size
Check the serving size and the servings per container. Many products have more than one serving per container including chips, drinks, and cereals. You’ll be surprised at how small the serving sizes are for the amount of calorie intake you’re receiving.
Recommended fat intake varies greatly on the individual. If you’re eating a keto diet, you’ll be wanting more fat in your diet. However, for most people, the recommended intake is anywhere between 10-20% of calories per day which is equal to 250 to 500 calories coming from your fat intake. Choose unsaturated or saturated fat and use oils that are heart healthy including olive oil, avocado, olives, nuts and seed oils.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Recommended carbohydrate intake varies greatly for individuals depending on their health and activity level. Most adults need somewhere between 100 to 400 grams per day with an emphasis on high fiber and vegetables. Remember that sugar and fiber are both carbohydrates.
Eating Your Protein
Similar to recommended fat intake, protein also depends on the individual. Most adults need anywhere between 60 to 100 milligrams per day. Aim for 20 to 30 mg protein per meal.
For most people 2.300 mg per day or one teaspoon salt per day is recommended. People with high blood pressure, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease need to limit their salt intake to 1500 mg/day. Packaged and processed foods such as canned soup, packaged and frozen meals contain high amounts of sodium and should be avoided.
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