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Grocery Store Buyer Beware! A Three Part Series (2 of 3)

How To Read The Nutrition Label

Written by: Dr. Janine Mackenzie, ND

In the previous blog post we defined a lot of the buzz words that are found on the front of grocery store products. In this post we will dig in to what the nutrition label on the back of the product mean and what to look for when choosing healthy options for your family.

How to Read a Food Label

  1. First look at serving size. Some labels even show the number of servings in a whole package. Then compare the serving size amount to your typical portion size. If your portion size is double the serving size then you must double all the nutrients, fats and calories listed.

  2. Look at the total calories and tally your calorie count for your typical portion size. The average woman needs 2000 calories and the average man needs 2500 calories per day to maintain their current weight. Too many calories each day will cause you to gain weight. Counting calories as a method to lose weight can work but requires diligence. To lose one pound in one week the average woman should eat 1500 calories and the average man should eat 2000 calories.

  3. Choose foods low in saturated fat, sugars, and sodium. Saturated fat is fat that is solid at room temperature and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. High sugar foods cause lots of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, not to mention they can disrupt your blood sugar balance and leave you with energy crashes. Long term risks of unbalanced blood sugar include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, nerve damage and kidney problems.High sodium is linked to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart attack and cardiovascular disease.

  4. Choose foods with high vitamin and mineral daily value percentages. Whole foods, fruits, and veggies are high in natural sources of vitamins and minerals so they are the best choice. But when choosing other foods take a look at this section to ensure the calories you will be taking in are nutrient dense, not nutrient deficient.

  5. Fiber! One of my favourite F words ;) This is such an important component of foods that is often stripped away through processing. For example, the fibrous outer shell of the wheat grain is stripped away to make white flour. The more processed the food, the less fiber. We need fiber to keep our bowel habits regular, slow the dump of sugar into our blood stream after eating, help manage our blood cholesterol levels, and even help balance hormones. Aim to get as much high fiber foods as possible.

  6. Look for high protein foods. Lean cuts of good quality meats are top choice for proteins, but lots of other food choices have protein in them. Eating protein keeps us feeling full for longer, slows blood sugar spiking, helps us maintain energy throughout the day, and form the building blocks of everything in our bodies. Especially if you don’t eat animal proteins, ensuring you get good quality protein from plant sources is so important for your body to function optimally! Ideally, all meals and all snacks should have some protein component.

Don’t forget to read the ingredients list!

Reading the ingredient list on a nutrition label can be daunting at times. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you look at an ingredient list.

  • Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least. The fewer the number of ingredients, the better.

  • The first or second ingredient should be what the packaging claims the product to be.

  • If the first ingredient is “sugar”, put it back!

  • If the first ingredient says “enriched wheat flour”… think twice.

  • If there's a long list of scary-sounding ingredients you can't pronounce… not a good idea!

Now you’re armed with knowing how to decipher the front and the back labels of the foods. Stay tuned for the next post about how to find hidden sugar in foods.

If you’re looking to improve your health and wellness, contact Cheam Wellness Group at 604-776-2432 or to learn more about how we can work together

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