With a new year officially here, countless people have declared this year to be THE year to eat healthy. In support of this noble goal, many find themselves reading food labels in the grocery store for the first time in years…or ever.
While understanding food labels is a relatively easy skill to attain, it does take practice and many newcomers make the same common mistakes. As you embark on your new food label reading practice in the quest of healthy eating, here are three common mistakes to avoid.
(1) It’s Calories PER Serving, Not Per Container
It’s all too easy to pick up a bag of chips, look at the back, and think that it can’t be too bad since it only contains 140 calories per serving. However, there are 15 servings in that half-empty, air-puffed bag! Be mindful of how many servings are in each container when looking at the calorie count. And when you’re eating at home, portion yourself out a serving and put the container away before you begin eating. You’re much more likely to stick to the one serving that way.
(2) Reduced, Lower, Lite Doesn’t Mean Anything
Around this time of year, when new year’s resolutions are in full effect, packages suddenly appear in your local grocery store bedazzled with slogans like “Reduced Sodium” or “Lower Fat.” But be cautious because those labels are often only promising a reduction in sodium from what that very same product USED to have. Same goes for a “lower sodium” version of your favorite snack. And “lite.” To best understand what that shiny package contains for your health, turn it over and read the label on the back.
(3) Make the First Three Listed the Last Three in Your Intake
On the typical food label, after the calorie count, you still see the Total Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium listed. For a healthy diet, limit these three as much as possible. Additionally, when looking at the breakdown under total fat, try to keep the TRANS fat number as low as you can. That’s the “bad” fat that is produced when foods are highly processed.
Next time you’re grocery shopping, don’t be intimidated by the information on food labels. Stick with these three easy tips and you’ll be on your way to being a food label reading pro!