How to read Food Labels

Between reading AND understanding food labels are often worlds. The Food Industry is confusing us with weird abbreviations, words we cannot pronounce and is tricking us with healthy-looking packaging. Read here where you should keep an eye on:

1) Calorie Count This is probably the first thing on the Food Label, our eyes wander to: the calorie count. But, don’t be put off by a meal that is higher in calories AND includes lots of good nutrients. This is what you want! On the other side: even 100 calories or less are too much if these are “empty” calories. 2) Serving Size This is tricky: one serving size usually contains not a lot of calories. For example, the chocolate you are eating might has “120 calories per serving”. Watch out what the serving size is - usually this refers to 15-30g. Do the math and don’t be tricked by the food industry!

3) Fats You guessed it, there are different kinds of fat! If the majority of the food you want to buy comes from unsaturated fat, go for it! If it is saturated or trans-fat, but it back on the shelf. Why? Because trans-fats or unsaturated fats are linked with increasing bad LDL cholesterol levels. If a food label says 0g trans-fat, check again! There is a loophole in the food industry and if the label includes “partially hydrogenated oil”, then the food you are about to buy has trans-fats in it! 4) Sugars Just because food contains sugars doesn’t make it automatically bad. It is important to differentiate between “added sugars” and “naturally occurring sugars”. To get your head around this, have a look at the ingredients and check if they naturally contain sugar, such as lactose in milk, or fructose in fruit.

Hint: Ingredients on the list are ordered in volume. So, if sugar is one of the first ingredients on the list, put it back on the shelf! Naturally occurring sugars won’t be on this list. Watch out for dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup and cane crystals.

5) Sodium If your food contains a lot of sodium it is a good indicator that this food is highly processed. You should opt for food that is lower in sodium, as this ingredient can raise your blood pressure. 6) Fiber & Whole Grain If the food you want to buy contains grains, check, if it has at least 3g of fiber. If you’re looking to eat more whole grain (which are rich in fiber), you must see the word “whole”. If you see the word “enriched”, this is a good sign that the grains have been refined, which means that it contains almost no fiber anymore.