Here is more of a practical blog post. Something you can use on a daily basis
Step 1: Check Ingredient List if you have Food Allergies or Sensitivities
– Ingredient list will be on the bottom of the label.
– Ingredients are listed by weight in descending order. Highest weight is first, lowest weight is last. Look for whole foods such as fruits or veggies listed in the top three.
– Generally less ingredients is better, but not always! Some two ingredient foods are also bad.
Step 2: Check Serving Size and Calories
– Compare your normal serving size to what an actual serving is. You might be shocked.
– Make sure you are aware that there might be more than one serving in a container or package.
– Having a food scale or measuring cups handy will help with this step.
– Generally, 40 calories is considered low, 100 calories is considered moderate and 400 calories is considered high.
Step 3: Check the Fat, Sodium, Cholesterol and Sugar levels
– Make sure Saturated and Trans fat are limited. They should be less than the healthier unsaturated fat.
-Sodium should be as low as possible. Use the %DV as a guide: less than 20% or 500mg or less per serving in most cases.
-Make sure cholesterol is low as well. Use %DV as a guide: less than 5% of is ideal.
-Sugar should also be kept relatively low. Use %DV as a guide: less than 20% in most cases.
Step 4: Check the Protein and Carbohydrates
– More protein will almost always be a good thing. Over 20g per serving is great. Over 12g is very good. High protein/low calorie processed foods are your best options.
– Look to keep total carbs moderate to low in most cases, depending on the food and your goals. Realize that the higher the sugar is, the higher the total carb content will be.
– Try to find foods where the majority of their carb content does not come from sugar.
Step 5: Check Fiber and other Micronutrients
– Foods higher in fiber are healthier. Over 5g per serving is great. Over 3g is good.
-Use the %DV to see how the vitamin and mineral content stacks up. Generally, the higher the %DV for vitamins and minerals, the better. Over 20% is good.
– Some vitamins and minerals require more than 100% DV.
Here are some things to be aware of:
- If the serving size says 1/2 cup and you eat 1 cup you have just doubled the calories you ate. Pretty obvious for some, not for others 🙂
- When looking for a protein bar or powder think: high protein/lowish calories. Anything above 75% of the calories from protein is great!
- Example: 100 calories and 22g of protein in a scoop of Quest Whey Isolate Protein. 22gx4 calories=88 calories come from protein or 88% of the calories from protein. Can’t beat it!
- Misleading labels are rampant. Here are some examples:
- “Light” usually means more added sugar.
- “Low fat” usually means more added sugar.
- “No added sugar” could mean there is still a lot of natural sugar via fruit. Still not great.
- “Mulitigrain” often has added refined (no fiber) grains. Go for “whole grain” options instead, just make sure the whole grains are listed in the first three ingredients.
- “Organic” doesn’t mean healthy. Organic sugar is still sugar.
- “Gluten free” doesn’t mean health either. Make sure you are actually gluten intolerant before jumping on this bandwagon.
- “Fruit flavored” does not mean there is actually fruit in the food.
- “Good source of protein” doesn’t mean jack. I have seen this numerous times, only to look at the label and see 7g of protein with 16g of fat.
- There are other names for added sugar: dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maltose, any type of syrup is basically sugar and many others
- Any time you see an ingredient ending with an -ol it is sugar alcohol and this is used as a sugar alternative. These usually have zero or very few calories. These are OK if not over eaten.
What to take away from this? Well, it is easier to just eat more whole, fresh foods so you can avoid having to read a label for all your foods.
Shoot for 80% whole, fresh food and 20% processed food or anything where you have to take 30 seconds to check the label. This is where life balance is super important.