Take Control! Making Sense of Food Labels

It is important to know what you are putting in your body, but it can be difficult to decipher food labels and know what to look for.  I am going to share with you some tips I use when buying groceries:

  1. Take the time to read the food labels! You are spending your money on this product – is it worth it?Once you become familiar with your go-to products you no longer have to read the labels, you just go straight in and buy it! So, take the time to find quality products up front.
  2. Buy real, whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. This is the BEST way to know exactly what you are eating, plus you won’t have to bother with reading any confusing food labels!  An apple is an apple; a tomato is a tomato – simple.
  3. Prioritize ingredients — if the ingredients aren’t any good, it does not matter how few calories, sugar, or fat it has. Can you pronounce the ingredients, do you have them in your kitchen, or at least know what they are?  If not, you may not want to be eating it. You also want to look for foods with short ingredient lists (i.e. Peanut Butter should contain peanuts and maybe a little salt…that is it!).
  4. Compare similar products and pick the one that is the best choice for you. Focus on two things: 1) which one has more of the stuff you want (protein, fiber, healthy fats, organic, etc.) and 2) which one has less of the stuff you do not want (salt, sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, etc.).
  5. Food should not have to convince you it is “healthy” – ones that do are likely not all that good for you.  Is that cereal really “heart-healthy”?  Is “sugar-free” really better for you? What did they have to add to make “calorie-free” or “fat-free” food taste good? Flip the package over and see what is really in it; don’t believe the claims on the front of the packaging.
  6. Know your limits and establish a baseline. Decide what your deal-breakers are; if they are on the label, DO NOT eat it. Your deal-breakers may not be the same as mine, but some of mine include:
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats)
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Hidden or added sugars
  • High sugar
  • Farmed fish
  • Nitrates & nitrites
  • High sodium

Some other deal breakers for people may include dairy, gluten, artificial food coloring, non-organic, etc.

You have control of what you eat!  With a little preparation and planning for your meals and taking the time to read your food labels you will be able to make great steps forward for your life and health!

Sharon Hudd, Pn1 Nutrition Coach

Sharon Hudd, Pn1
Nutrition Coach

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