It was a Saturday night and my fiancé’ had a hunkering for a salty snack while we watched a movie. Okay, I was looking forward to eating a few of them too;) While perusing the chip aisle, he picked out a bag of potato chips that read, “Oven baked 70% less fat.” Out of curiosity we compared the food label with a regular bag of chips and low and behold the regular chips were healthier!
Assuming that a product is a healthy just because of the wording on the packaging is a mistake. Sneaky marketing can mislead us and that’s why it’s important to read food labels.
Here are some basic things to look for on a food label:
- Ingredients. The fewer ingredients the better. If it reads like pig Latin with words you don’t know how to pronounce, then it’s probably not a good choice.When I was looking at the ingredients on the chips, I found that the regular chips had fewer ingredients and was more natural than the “oven baked 70% less fat” chips.
- Wheat bread is one that can get you if you don’t check the food label. The first ingredient should be whole grain or whole wheat. If it says “unbleached enriched flour” it’s simply processed with some whole grains and added color.
- Sodium. You will be amazed how much sodium is in most of the foods we consume. Canned goods, frozen dinners, and other pre-packaged items are typically very high in sodium. Eating homemade meals from whole foods is always the best route.
- Sugar. Often times if a food is low in fat it might have a lot more sugar added to it. For example, you might be surprised how much sugar is in yogurt. If it’s more than 14 grams, it’s not the best choice. The USDA recommends limiting added sugars to 40 grams a day. The American Heart Association recommends 37.5 grams or 9 tsp. for men and 25 grams or 6 tsp. for women. Naturally occurring sugars are okay, but it’s the added sugars like table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that you want to limit.
- Calories/serving size. Always take this into consideration. If you eat more than one serving you will need to add that to everything else listed on the food label. Some serving sizes are itty bitty so it might not be worth eating.
- Fats. See how much you are getting from saturated fat and trans fat. You want little to none of these fats in your diet. If the ingredients list “partially hydrogenated oil,” then it has trans fat in it.
A couple of years ago I did a food pantry raid at the home of one of my clients. It was one of the first raids I did, but she was a great sport! If you would like to check out that video here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nulQuzXERDg