Less than 10% of Americans read nutrition labels. Here at EZMed Podcast, we are not shocked. After all, who has time to stand at the grocery store and read a tiny label on every food product they purchase?
The truth is, you should. Nutrition labels are the only regulated part of a product that companies are mandated to report to the consumer. This means that the rest of the fancy labeling is designed to get your attention so you buy it!
Now, we live in the information age, and people are getting smarter and more aware of the food they are putting into their bellies. Just look at the grocery stores these days and all you see are labels like “gluten free!”, “organic!”, “farm-raised!”, “antibiotic-free!”, among many others.
Marketing companies have picked up on the increasing awareness of the average consumer, and have resorted to manipulative tactics to trick people into spending their hard earned dollars on their food products.
Now if you want to become a healthy shopper, I’ve sorted out the top 5 most important things you need to know next time you read a nutrition label. I promise, if you follow these tips, no smart marketing will outsmart you!
1. Words outside the nutrition label are not to be trusted.
We see this all the time, labels proudly tote “Low Fat!”, “Sodium-Free!”, “Low Calorie!” amongst others. Well, do yourself a favor and stick to what’s inside the nutrition label only if you’re really interested in knowing what’s inside the product. Because remember, this is the only regulated part of the product labeling by FDA. Low Fat is allowed on foods that contain no more than 3 grams of fat. Sodium Free is allowed on foods that contain 5 mg of sodium or less. Low Calorie is allowed on foods that have at least 25% less calories than their competitors or average in the food class. While these terms may not be entirely false representations of their product, it’s still better to skip to the nutrition label and get the exact facts.
2. Ingredients are listed starting from highest to lowest.
If you didn’t know this, you need to start applying this today! There are so many foods out there that contain harmful and unhealthy additives such as artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup. I swear at one point in time I looked through my kitchen cupboards and 99% of my food labels had high fructose corn syrup listed at least in the top 3 ingredients. Try to switch to organic versions of condiments which do not rely on high fructose corn syrup. And stick to real sugar instead of artificial sugars, or stevia which is an acceptable natural alternative. Next time you look at a product and the numbers of fat and calories and carbohydrates look acceptable on the label, take a look underneath it and find out what exactly the product is made from. Remember, the ingredients are always listed from highest to lowest, so drinks (should) always have water listed as ingredient number one (do not purchase any liquid that does not list water as number one!).
3. Don’t get impressed by added vitamins and minerals.
It makes me mad how some cereals are worse than dessert but then they add a bunch of Vitamin C and iron and somehow expect the public to see it as healthy. Well sadly… it works! For us living in North America, this is absurd! When was the last time you heard of anyone diagnosed with kwashiorkor or marasmus?? Guys, if anything, Americans have higher chances of vitamin and mineral toxicities because of all the “enriched” cereals and products! Chances are if a product is filled with all this stuff it’s because they’re trying to get you to forget about the ungodly amounts of simple carbohydrates it’s filled with.
4. Don’t be tricked by simple math.
You might be reading the entire label correctly, but if you can’t apply that to how much food it represents, then it’s a fail. I see this a lot with protein powder supplements. You might see a whopping 20 grams of protein on the nutrition label, but fail to notice that the serving size is actually 3 of those large scoops! Fool me once, but not again. This happened to me when I bought a delicious chocolate protein powder that mixed so easily with water or milk. When I realized to get the 20 grams of protein I actually needed to dump in 3 scoops, not only was it thick and not mix well, the container was finished so fast! Always look at how many scoops or slices or pieces of food the serving size represents so you don’t get fooled.
5. Have a systematic approach to reading labels and the macros.
I usually start by looking at the serving size to find out what portion the numbers below will tell me about, and then glance at the total number of calories in that serving. For many, this is the most important part especially when it comes to weight loss. Next, you want to look at the macros to see whether the calories are coming mostly from fat, protein, or carbohydrates. And last, I will review the ingredient list.
If you follow these 5 tips, I promise you will lead a healthier life!
If you need help reading a label feel free to send it to us in the Facebook group or by e-mail.