I’m sure by now everyone knows to check the nutrition facts on the food you’re buying at the grocery store but what is it you should be looking for? I know it’s confusing, but I’m here to help. Here are my top 5 things to look for when reading those nutrition facts.
1) Serving Size
This is a biggie that trips most people up. When comparing items like granola or cereal in the store one box may seem lower in calorie but check the serving size. It’s probably much smaller. Or on that ‘snack sized’ bag of chips, really check how many servings are in there. If there are 3 and you eat the whole thing you’re tripling the calories on the label.
2) Sodium & Sugar
Pay close attention to these. The latest recommendation for sodium is 2300mg per day for adults and even less for kids. Canned foods are a big culprit here. As for sugar, the less the better. Check the ingredient list to see where it’s coming from too. Is it sugar, honey, artificial sweeteners or *gasp* high fructose corn syrup!?! Just stay away from any foods that contain HFCS.
Almost everyone I talk to about their diet could use more protein. It’s a very essential maconutrient that a lot of people over look. Depending on your fitness goals and activity level you need .5 – 1g of protein per pound of body weight every day.
4) Ingredient List
At the bottom of the nutrition facts is the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in the order of quantity. So if sugar is first on the list put that thing back and pretend you never picked it up in the first place. Also, the shorter the list the better. Food writer Michael Pollan is famous for saying, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” And I completely agree.
5) Food Allergens
Lastly, if you have a food allergy food labels are now required to list if they contain or may have come in contact with the top 8 food allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat). This is also important to check if you’re trying to avoid gluten, dairy and/or soy in your diet.
It seems like a lot of things to look out for but it’s the only way to know exactly what you’re putting in your body. To make it simpler, just buy foods that do not require a label. Like fresh vegetables, fruits and high quality proteins. Your body is like a sports car. If you put cheap, low grade fuel in your body you’re going to run like crap. If you fill yourself with the best fuel possible you’ll feel great and run like a dream. Would you dump sugar in your gas tank? I think not. Your body is exactly the same, but unlike a sports car you can’t replace your body if you reck it. So treat it well, it’s the only one you’ve got.