HOW TO READ FOOD LABELS
This can be a very overwhelming, confusing experience, but it doesn't have to be. I'll show you the 3 most important things to look for when determining if a food is healthy or not. Don't try to replace all of your unhealthy foods at once, let it be a transition. However, it all starts at the store -what you bring home is what you're gong to eat. Therefore, it's extremely important to know how to shop healthy. Make this a process, you don't have to purchase the most healthy thing at first. Start by comparing and trying to find something a little bit healthier than before, then continue to do that, always striving for improvement, not perfection.
Since sugar, unhealthy fat, and salt cause the most health problems that's what we should focus on more than anything else. Read below to know the guidelines for each.
SUGAR - When reading a food label, you'll want to find 'added sugar' and aim for zero! Anytime sugar is added, it's not healthy. In our example to the right, there are 12g total sugar and 10g added. This means there are only 2 natural sugars in the product and the rest is unhealthy added, not good.
FAT- There is good fat and bad fat. Our bodies need good fat (still monitoring portions) but we don't really need bad fat and this is the fat that causes numerous health problems. When reading a food label aim for zero trans fat and try to keep saturated fat under 15g per day.
SODIUM- The total recommendation for sodium per day is 2300mg (<2000mg if you have high blood pressure). If you had 2/3 cup of this sample product you would have 160mg towards your 2300mg. Or you can look at the % on the right hand column. 5% is low and 20% is high so aim for as close to 5% as possible.
If it wasn't for the 10g of added sugar this product would be off to a good start. Many times you won't find the perfect product so you'll have to weigh out the pros and cons and try to find as healthy as possible. The food label itself is only half the battle! The most important thing to look at when determining if a product is healthy is the INGREDIENTS. Companies can make the label look pretty good but the ingredients is what really matters. Many times I go straight to the ingredients before I even read the food label. This is how you know what's actually in the product. Good rule of thumb -if you don't know what a word means or can't pronounce it chances are it's not a healthy ingredient. Here is a link that goes over some of the harmful ingredients to avoid.