Nutrition labels are there for a reason and if you read them right, they can really serve as an excellent guide towards better health. Here’s how you should be using nutrition labels for your personal fitness.
Most people go straight to calories or carbohydrates when checking Nutrition Labels. Note however that those numbers are based on serving size which could be more than one per packet. Imagine a pack of biscuits with 9 pieces inside.
The calories per serving could be 150 calories but one serving size is 3 pieces. Hence, eating the whole pack actually means you’re eating 450 calories worth of food. If you’re calorie counting, this is an important factor to consider.
Sugar is such a confusing label for many. The important thing you have to remember is that natural and added sugars are often lumped together in the Nutrition Label so you’ll have to watch out. The words dextrose, glucose, corn syrup, sucrose, and fructose are all added sugar and the ones you want to limit.
The amount of sugar is the next concern. Ideally, your maximum sugar consumption should not be more than 5 teaspoon or 20 grams of added sugar. Natural sugar or those that come from fruits are healthier but still need to be limited in consumption.
If you’re trying to lose weight, paying attention to the calories of the food you eat is a good way to start. Keep in mind that calories should be read in conjunction with the serving size of the food. As a rule, each meal should only be 500 calories or less if you want to lose weight at a healthy rate.
Saturated and Trans Fat
Fat as a component of food isn’t necessarily bad. What you want to avoid are saturated and trans fat which are deemed the ‘unhealthy’ kind and could cause heart problems in the long run. Always look into how the Nutrition Label lists the fat.
Ideally, there’s a Total Fat count and then an itemization of trans fat, saturated fat, and other kinds of fat. The goal is to make sure that you’re eating food that’s low in the unhealthy kind of fat – thereby increasing the amount of the healthy one.
Protein is crucial if you’re trying to tone your body and develop muscles. In fact, studies have shown that protein is a key factor if you want to manage your weight in the long term. When looking at the Nutrition Label, you want to make sure that the protein hits around 20 to 22 grams for every meal.
Note that you have to balance this with the amount of carbohydrates and fat in the same food. If you want to do the math, then the protein should be one part of the meal, carbohydrates consisting of two parts, and healthy fat kept low at just 15 grams or less.
High-sodium food is just as bad as a high-sugar one. Opt for food with salt less than 140mg for every serving.
Note that while eating processed food with Nutrition Labels are convenient for keeping track – eating real and unprocessed food will still give you the best quality nutrients.