How to Read a Label (without feeling like an idiot)

When trying to eat a healthy diet, it’s important to understand and know exactly what you’re putting in your body. Food labels have become increasingly more difficult to understand, even for the savvy label reader (hence why I’m writing this blog and always getting this question). Reading labels makes it easier for you to judge what type of foods are good enough to put in your body.

While I’m always a fan of ‘whole’ foods that don’t come from a box, bag or can, I’m also not oblivious to the fact that we can’t fully avoid them. Myself included! So here are a few tips to get you reading labels like a pro:

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Servings

Almost laughable, but first, check the amount and size of servings contained in a package. Oftentimes, people will assume that an item is one serving, but in reality it’s two or three. Can you eat more than one serving? Sure. But then you’re gonna need to read on for other things to check to make sure you really want to.


Calories

The next thing you should check is the number of calories. While I’m not a fan of counting calories, I am always curious just how many are in each item. Especially for my clients who are struggling to lose weight. Many times people don’t realize just how many calories are in pre-packaged foods, and are simply overeating.


Nutrients

Check out the fats, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, etc on the back of the package. Why is this important? I am a fan of balancing blood sugar with the simple three: protein, fiber and fat. Carbohydrates (especially refined grains) on their own causes a spike in blood sugar, which is not what you want. So, if you look at the package and discover it’s all carbs and no protein or fat, you know that you need to pair it with something like a handful of almonds, to help stabilize blood sugar and hormones.


Anti-nutrients

This is where I really urge people to spend the most amount of time when browsing labels. Head to that ingredient section and look for items that are going to deplete your body of nutrients, or nourish you. In a nutshell, if you can’t pronounce it, have to spend time Googling an item, or see a list that’s a mile long…put the item down and back away slowly. Unfortunately a lot of pre-packaged items out there contain artificial sweeteners, dyes, and other items that truly rob the body of vitamins and minerals. Not worth it in my book.


Sugar

You know this one deserves its own category. Sugar is so prevalent in pre-packaged items, both natural and synthetic. While I know that fully eliminating sugar for many is unrealistic, I also know that most of us are consuming wayyyyyy too much. So, check that sugar intake! And, see if it’s coming from added sugars (cane sugar, coconut sugar, etc), or artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc) which can wreak even more havoc on the body.

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