Reading food labels is an important element of maintaining health. You want to know what is in the products you are consuming.
Refuse to let food labeling daunt you, even if at first it seems overwhelming. You don’t have to learn everything all at once. If you get into the habit of reading food labels a little at a time, you’ll find it’s like learning a song on the radio. When a song is new, you don’t download the lyrics and spend hours memorizing them. Over time, you automatically learn them through exposure and repetition.
You can take the same approach with food labels. Keep looking at them and before you know it, you’ll understand much more about food ingredients and how they relate to health than you did before you started reading them. Simply start reading the food labels when you go shopping, and slowly you will learn which foods contain a higher amount of healthy ingredients and which foods contain ingredients you want to avoid. You can Google reputable websites to learn about unfamiliar terms and ingredients on the label.
It’s helpful to know that ingredients are listed in descending order of the amount of each ingredient. For example, if the majority ingredient of the product is sugar, then sugar will be listed first in the ingredients section.
Know what you’re putting into your body. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Knowing what to avoid is as important as knowing what healthy ingredients to look for in a product.
Notice what the label identifies as a serving size. Often, people will eat more than the amount listed as a single serving. If that is the case, you need to do the math to figure out how much you are consuming in calories, cholesterol, sodium and other ingredients.
For example, if the serving size is listed as ½ cup, but you eat 1½ cups, then you need to triple the amounts listed on the label. If ½ cup of the product has 125 calories, but you are consuming 1½ cups, you are actually consuming 375 calories. Just as importantly, you have tripled the amount of saturated fat, sodium (salt) and the rest of the ingredients.
Reading food labels is easy once you get accustomed to the language and facts typically shown on them. Labels can be a very important part of making healthier food choices. You can even use mealtime with your family as an opportunity to educate each other on the nutrition in your current meal. You could play a guessing game with the numbers. The sooner young children learn to read and understand food labels, the sooner they can use labels as a tool to monitor their own health.
Are calories good or bad (healthy or unhealthy)? They can be either, depending on the situation. Calories give us our energy. View them as positive, not negative. Without calories, we couldn’t move a muscle. However, consuming too many calories or calories that come from unhealthy food is the real problem.
Start reading those labels a little at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to knowing, at a glance, if the product you’re holding is a healthy choice for you.
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. She helps companies significantly reduce costs and increase productivity through a new approach to wellness. Based in Manchester, N.H., she can be reached through her website at www.HealthDesignNH.com.