Ever wondered why you gained weight after eating a bag of chips that was ONLY 100 calories? No way, you’ve been eating what you would normally eat. In fact, you've cut a heavier, denser snack for chips! So how in the world can you get bigger?
Ever considered looking closely at that nutrition label? You should.
Maybe the 100 calories that company claims is ONLY for ONE SINGLE serving of 50 grams but the bag’s net weight is actually 150 grams? So in effect, you’ve actually consumed about 300 calories.
Here's a few basic guidelines on how to read a nutrition label:‘free’ Products
Don’t fall easily for products which claim to be ‘fat-free’, ‘sugar-free’. Products low in fat are often high in sugar and products that are sugar-free are often high in fat. Some products do use natural sugars like honey, agave or sugar from fruits but this is very rare in commercial products as they shorten the shelf life. Serving Size
For all you fat loss junkies, portion control is THE most important aspect of weight management. Let’s take the example of breakfast cereals. The label claims that 30 grams of cereal is 109 calories. Now that doesn’t sound ominous because most people have no idea how little 30 grams for a meal actually is. Measure the food you eat and compare it to the serving sizes mentioned; it WILL shock you, I promise.Calories & Calories from Fat
The most read line in the entire label!
So 109 calories in 30 grams has only 30 calories (we’re still looking at this particular breakfast cereal that assures weight loss). But as I mentioned earlier, a product which is low in fat is often high in sugar - check the sugar content under Total Carbohydrates. Higher fat products may actually be better for you ‘cos in reality, sugar is your bigger enemy. Look for products with less than 20 grams of fat and less than 10 grams of sugar in 100 grams and NOT one single serving. Also, stick to tiny amounts of saturated fat and zero trans fat.
A daily diet should consist of 55-65% of carbohydrates. Good ‘complex’ carbs, of course!
Now this cereal box claims to have 1.5 grams of dietary fiber and 7.5 grams of sugar in THIRTY grams. So a regular serving size (60 grams) would have 15 definitely-not-going-to-make-you-thinner grams of sugar! Look for products with less than 10 grams of sugar for 100g serving, if possible. Protein
Protein is made up of amino acids, known as the “building blocks of protein”, is essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of muscle tissues in the body. Personally, I tend to look at the protein content first, which is plain and quite simply mentioned on the label. It should be uncomplicated and easy to understand. Ingredients
Lastly, all food products contain a list of ingredients. Simple rule of thumb - if this list is long and complicated, stay away from it. The lesser the ingredients, the lesser processed the product. Micronutrients
These are the lesser-known essential nutrients that are required by the human body in smaller amounts like Cholesterol and Sodium, which can be found right under the Fats. Always keep in mind that packaged foods have lot of sodium, so you want to keep a serve under 140 mg since we eat salt in pretty much everything and the daily need for salt is just 2400mg.
While Vitamins & Minerals when eaten in required amounts can help in reducing risk of various diseases and improve health.
There you go. Reading a nutrition label decoded. So the next time you head to the supermarket, read more carefully, yeah?
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