Read The Label

By Papillex May 16, 2012

Do you know how to read the label and what you should be looking for?

Grocery shopping can be frustrating: between navigating the grocery isles and the constant influx of new products invading grocery shelves, making the healthiest food choices is a daunting task.  With some products boasting “20% less sodium,” while other products boast “added omega 3’s,” it’s hard to know where to start.

The best way to go about shopping for food is to be suspicious: don’t trust anything the front of the box tells you.  Reading the label itself can be helpful. Companies use lots of health industry buzz words to lure you into buying their products by making you think that you’re choosing the healthier option, but that isn’t always the case.  The only way to know for sure is to read the ingredients label.

A general rule: if the list of ingredients is a mile long and contains mostly words that only a person with a PhD in chemistry would understand, walk away and don’t buy it.  Despite the “added antioxidants” that’s written on the box, the contents are probably overly processed, preservative-laden and devoid of nutrition with the exception of a quick spray of antioxidants before packaging.

Next, look for specific ingredients such as added sugar, high fructose-corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, etc., and then look at the actual amount of sugar, salt, trans and saturated fats is in each serving.  If you can remember that 5 grams = 1 teaspoon, it will make navigating the nutrition label easier (and shock you with how much sugar, salt, etc. you are actually eating). Also remember to look at what the label defines as a serving. Often what you will find is that a “serving” according to the label is much less than you may think. Sneaky!

Whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are simply the best option.  Yes, packaged foods are more convenient, but convenience comes with a price, and in the long run it is not just a financial price we pay. The foundation of health begins with diet. Like a luxury car, our bodies need the appropriate fuel and oil. Without these basic things, the engine will burn out regardless of how well designed the car is.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, good sources of protein like fish, chicken, turkey, legumes, and whole grains like brown rice, are “premium fuel” for our bodies.

So eat it up!

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