Read & Eat: 5 Easy Tips to Read Labels

5 tips to read labels like a pro
If you've ever felt totally overwhelmed by all the products in the supermarket isle, this blog is for you! I mean how many different yogurt products can there be?! ... Yes, the answer is: TOOO MANY! This fact extends to almost all items on your shopping list. You will need to examine and sift through loads of products, to find the one you need or the one you feel is the healthiest. Why is it so hard? The easiest reason: The choices are too expansive! The food industry also misleads us with fancy words and pictures on the packaging, influencing our choices even further. 

So, how do you choose? What do we need to look for when comparing products? We always want to make the best possible choice. So, let's take a step-by-step approach to READ the labels BEFORE we can EAT the products! Do not fear! Keep this blog near to empower you to read labels like a superhero. You will be able to quickly identify which product should get a thumbs-up. 

By being smart and comparing labels, you will easily find the right item. 

HOW TO READ LABELS LIKE A PRO?

Follow these 5 simple tips!

1. INGREDIENT LISTS

Usually, for general health, the shorter the ingredient list the better! If there are loads of ingredients you can't even pronounce, the chances are good that your body also wouldn't want it. 

Most products' ingredients are listed in descending order: from the highest content in this product, to the smallest amount of ingredient added to the specific item. So, if your goal is to limit sugar or salt intake, it shouldn't be the first 5 or so items listed... 

Keep it short and simple (a.k.a. more natural!). 

2. FAT

Since fat is extremely energy dense, we should be very careful of eating foods with a high fat content. Eating high fat foods can easily increase your total energy intake leading to weight gain. We need to look at each food label, especially on animal-products because these products usually contain saturated fat (which can be harmful to your heart health when eaten in excessive quantities). 

How to read the "fat" content on labels: 
  • Low fat products: This can refer to baked goods, dairy products (think milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese). For an item to be truly low fat, it should meet the following criteria:
    • 3g total fat per 100g (or less) for solid foods e.g. cheese, bread, chips
    • 1.5g total fat per 100ml (or less) for liquids/beverages e.g. milk
  • Fat free products: When it contains LESS THAN 0.5g fat per 100ml or 100g
  • Limit saturated: Items should contain less than 1,5 g per 100 g
  • Always avoid trans-fatty acids (aim for 0g trans fats)

3. SODIUM

Sodium is the nutrient added to give food a "salty" taste, or commonly added as a preservative. This is the ingredient that is also associated with increased blood pressure, and can lead to heart disease. For optimal health, we shouldn't frequently eat too many high sodium foods. To know more about blood pressure, read our blog post: Blood Pressure - The Silent Killer. 
  • Limit the intake of high sodium foods = if it contains more than 400mg / 100g.
  • A product is "low sodium" if it contains 120mg per 100g/100ml or less. These items can be enjoyed more frequently. 
REMEMBER: Daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2300mg/ day. This includes intake from various sources: Foods, preservatives, used in cooking and beverages. Long term high sodium intake may increase your risk to develop high blood pressure and other health consequences. 

4. FIBER

Most of us are not eating enough fiber. Fiber might go lost during the processing of foods. In general men require 38 grams and women require around 25 grams. 

If you are looking for a "high fiber" item, it should contain at least 6g per 100g. 

To find out more about eating a high fiber diet, read the Fiber 101 blog post. 

5. Serving Size vs Package Size

The size most products come in is WAAAAY too big... Which might lead to overeating, simply because the packaging is misleading. We also often look at the label, and see the serving size's information and think "Ah that's a good product!"; but then end up eating the WHOLE package... Thus getting a lot more than we bargained for! 

Take into account how much you should have, and avoid having seconds (or finishing the whole package!). If you can't manage the temptations of putting a half-eaten bag back into the fridge, maybe try to buy smaller packages that only contain 1 serving. This can however be more expensive.  


Let's not be bombarded and overwhelmed by all the products and choices. Pick the item up; read the label and see for yourself whether this suits your needs - or not. Be informed and know what to look for. Your health will thank you! 

How to read food labels

SUMMARY

Here is a nice infographic to make the information a lot easier to remember!

How to read food labels

For more inspiration and cooking tips, you can get your Easy Wholesome Recipes E-book here
Take a look at our FOOD SWAPS blog post to read about making the smarter choice with certain foods.

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