Nutrition labels can be confusing, but they’re very important. Whether you’re buying a can of vegetables or picking out yogurt, understanding nutrition labels helps you to make healthier choices.
Look for high amounts of protein, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, potassium, fiber, and vitamins.
Look for low amounts of calories, calories from fat, total fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar. Less than 10% would be low.
Avoid any foods with Trans Fat or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list. Trans Fats have been linked to heart disease and many chronic illnesses.
The Sweet Stuff
It’s important to note that while sugar is not desirable, artificial sweeteners are controversial. Sugar-free foods actually can leave you hungry and cause you to overeat. Try purchasing plain and unflavored products and add the flavor yourself. For example, buy plain oatmeal and add nuts and berries.
Tips & Tricks
One trick that food companies use is to adjust the serving size to make the numbers look better. All of the nutrition data on the label is based on one serving of the product. So if you have a candy bar and the label says that bar is actually 2 servings, all the nutrition information is actually only for half of the bar! You would have to double all the numbers in order to get the nutrition facts for the whole bar. Pay close attention to serving size and servings per container.
Be Sodium Smart
Sodium intake is hard to monitor and if you’re eating processed foods, it’s probably adding up quickly. A low-sodium food has less than 140mg per serving and the American Heart Association recommends 1500mg daily. Be mindful of sodium in order to avoid high blood pressure. Salt keeps excess fluid in your body, which can add to the burden on the heart.