Healthy Eating: Checking the Label
Healthy eating starts in the aisles of your grocery store. Certain foods might your family’s favorites, but a decision to stick to a healthy balanced diet means that those old favorites deserve some new scrutiny. And the best place to start is with the nutrition facts label and ingredients list.
The first bit of healthy eating information you should always check out is the serving size for any given food. Snacks are notorious for including unrealistic serving sizes in order to make the percent values (such as for sugars or fat) much lower. A “20%” might look great next to the sodium, but if you regularly eat three or four times the serving size listed, you’re eating three or four times that percentage as well.
But the nutrition facts on healthy eating shouldn’t focus on the negatives. Remember to look for the good things in your food as well as the potentially bad ones. The largest concentrations of vitamins and minerals are listed by percentage near the bottom of the label. In nearly everything listed here, bigger is better.
And speaking of concentrations, did you know that the ingredients list is arranged by amount? The ingredient that makes up the largest percentage of the food will be listed first, and so on in descending order. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid foods where the ingredients list is topped by some form of sweetener (fructose, sucrose, or syrup of any kind). The ingredients list is also where you can find out for sure if your food contains “whole” grains, since the rest of the packaging might not specify.
It’s true that all this label-checking might mean you’re spending a bit more time in the grocery store than you’re used to. But when it comes to healthy eating, spending a little time on the front end is well worth it.
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