Understanding of nutrition facts labels can be for some people confusing and time-consuming. But through my experience, ability to learn and understand nutrition facts labels helped me to better understand the value of nutrients and also find what food I should choose or avoid.
The first thing that people usually and only see is the main marketing side of the package and usually, you can find there many magic words such as 'fitness', 'diet', 'low fat', 'healthy', or any other that can be found at any type of food products. And as the fitness industry grows, compatines come with a new product that is magical for your diet or whatever. It's BS. I always read what I going to buy because you would be surprised but even your fitness granola won't help you if you are serious with your fitness goals. That's just a little real talk as I am not saying that granola is best. I just want you to be aware of what you actually buy and know how to find if it's good as the package says or not.
What do I do when checking a certain food and its labels?
1️⃣ What ingredients are actually in the product?
All ingredients are listed according to how much of the ingredient the food contains, see what are the main ingredients - what is carbs/protein/fat source, what are another ingredients - spices, added sugar and trans fat, chemicals, and processed ingredients. The ingredient list can help you determine whether the food is right for you, depending on your views on what you want and don't want to put in your body. Aim for whole nutrient-dense foods - minimize any additives, sugars, trans fats, chemicals, preservatives, or processed foods.
2️⃣ What are the serving values and calorie values?
Usually, you will see values for 1 serving and the total number of servings per package. But be aware of what you actually eat! Compare your portion size (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed on the panel. For example, I have seen on usual cereals that the serving size was 30g. However, when I came home, I filled up my cereal bowl and when I weighted - voila, 60g - that means double calories, double macronutrients to count!
For calorie in general, is better to learn to look for values per 100g (better that check serving), after the time it will be more clear for you, which food has high or low values of calories and other components. Generally, food that contains above 400kcal per 100g is already high in calories. If you are trying to manage your body weight, choosing foods that are lower in calories will help.
3️⃣ Is there a high protein content?
Look for products with a higher protein, because you aim for daily protein intake.
4️⃣ Carbohydrates, Fiber, and Sugar values and sources?
Total carbohydrate values include fibre, sugar, starches, and glycerin. You aim for higher fibre because it is important for digestion, and bowel function. While you try to aim for less sugar. Sugar also can be found in the ingredient list as sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice, honey, fruit nectar, sugar cane juice, beet sugar, and golden syrup. These added sugars, along with trans fats, should be avoided by anyone trying to improve body composition, health and performance.
5️⃣ Is the product high in saturated or trans fats?
Total fat values include unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. Choose products that contain less saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
The ability to read and understand food labels is not just a matter of choosing to eat healthily, but it is a huge advantage whether you trying to gain muscle mass, or lose fat as choosing the right mix of foods will become easier. And you may find that your favourite healthy product is not that healthy as you may think.