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How to Read a Food Label

Posted on 07/9/2013

Reading a food label can seem like a daunting task, but it really isn’t so difficult if you know what to look for. Let me help walk you through it, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Having a better understanding increases comfort and self-confidence. Once you understand food labels, they will no longer seem so confusing and complex. You will also become much quicker at reading them and know what to look for.

 

 

One quick rule of thumb, watch out for those hard to pronounce words on ingredient lists, they normally aren’t ingredients you want to consume anyway! One such ingredient is hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, which is trans fat, one of the worst types of fat for you heart health. Steer clear of it and you’ll be doing your body some good.

 

Check not only calories, but also number of servings per container and serving size and see what the recommendation is for the amount of recommended daily calories, a 2,000-calorie diet? Then, reduce the size of portion you consume if you don’t need that many daily calories. Or, take that into consideration for your next meal.

 

Important things to look at are the above mentioned, but also fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Too many people overlook sodium and end up consuming two, three or four times the daily recommendations for sodium…sometimes at one meal alone! This over time can be the cause of hypertension, stroke and even premature death.

 

With ingredient lists, I like to zero in on high fructose corn syrup (man-made, overly sweet syrup that is in many products today as a cheap substitute for sugar) and food dyes. Both of those ingredients are unhealthy and you should not consume them, period.

 

I believe fresh is best. It is easy to understand and usually requires no label – fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and crispy, green salads. Our meals are freshly prepared, but we believe in labeling our meals and providing an ingredient list on each meal. All the wonderful produce this time of year makes eating fresh produce so easy to do.

 

Whenever I talk to kids about the importance of healthy eating, I always mention food labels. The older the children, the more details I provide, but even little kids get it and are incredibly interested in the subject. Most of the time, kids are much quicker than adults to understand it. Those kids want to eat healthfully, but sometimes they are mere products of their environments. Once adults are on board, the whole family benefits. Healthy eating is a family affair, not just for one or two members of a family.

 

So parents, engage your kids about the importance of reading food labels. And, parents, if your kids are talking to you about it, look at it as an opportunity to learn and change together. You could learn a great deal from one another and have fun in the process. Not to mention, improve your family’s health in the process.

post-author

Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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