Do you ever feel lost when it comes to choosing foods in the grocery store? Or, do you stare at food packages trying to decide if it is a healthy choice or not?
There are so many things to think about: grams of fat, grams of fiber, milligrams of cholesterol, grams of sugar, and more.
What to Look For
First, start at the top of the nutrition facts label, and read to the bottom. Check how many servings are in the entire container and what the portion size is for one serving. This will help you determine how many calories are in the entire package as well.
Next, check the calories and fat. Pay attention to make sure the product has 0 grams of trans fat. Then check the ingredient list to make sure you don’t find any hydrogenated oils to be sure there is absolutely no trans fat in the product.
Sodium and cholesterol are next. We want to try to keep the sodium as low as possible. Excessive sodium is anything that has more than 600 milligrams per serving. I would argue it is still too much sodium if it has more than 300 or 400 milligrams per serving. For cholesterol, you want to keep your daily intake below 200 milligrams.
The carbohydrate section on the food label is going to vary depending on what type of food you are looking at. A general rule is that every 15 grams of carbohydrates equals one carbohydrate/grain serving. If you are selecting a grainy or starchy product, try to choose the item that has at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. Check the sugar to make sure it is as low as possible (below 5 grams per serving). The only exception is dairy products and whole fruits which naturally contain sugar.
You do not necessarily need to check the protein content unless you are trying to increase or decrease the protein in your diet. Quickly glance at the percentage of your daily intake for your major vitamins and minerals listed below.
Lastly, the ingredient list on the label is important. Ingredients are listed by weight from greatest to least. If sugar is your first ingredient, the food is probably not a good choice.
Practice reading labels every time you go to the grocery store and you will educate yourself and get better at your label reading skills!