Food labels! For the conscious shopper reading labels while carefully selecting items to drop into your grocery cart can be a time consuming chore, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Are there too many calories? Is the fat content too high? Should I chose lite or regular? These may be some of the many questions going through your head while holding a box of crackers in one hand and a container of yogurt in the other. Here are a few tips that may add some clarity when reading those confusing food labels.
The list of ingredients used in a food product are listed in descending order by weight on food labels. Therefore, the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. Ingredients that make up less than 2% of the food by weight is either listed at the end or not at all. These ingredients may be flavour enhancers and stabilizers.
Here’s what to look for:
Carbohydrates and Hidden Sugars
This will be broken down into Total Carbohydrate, Dietary Fiber and Sugars. Avoid sugars that are more than 10% of the total amount of carbohydrate. This means that the product is just way too high in sugar! Also try your best to avoid any product with more than one sugar source listed in the ingredients.
Try to select foods with the higher fiber content. The higher the fibre, the slower it will be absorbed into the bloodstream making you feel more full and satisfied for longer. When buying bread or grain products look for the word “whole”.
A simple formula to determine the percentage of fat in a product:
(Fat calories / Total Calories) x 100
e.g. 100/240= .41
.41 x 100= 41% of calories from fat
Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Fats or Oils
Also known as trans fatty acids, these are the extremely unhealthy fats and should be avoided as much as possible. Trans fatty acids pose an extreme risk to our health and can lead to ailments such as heart disease and cancer.
Some other good to know terminology
Enriched- Nutrients have been removed during processing and have then been re-added. This is also known as fortified, a word that you’ll see on a carton of milk
Lite- Means lite in taste, calories, colour or fat. For a “lite” product to still have a some flavour and be satisfying to your palette remember, some other ingredient has been added to make the food appealing. Pay close attention to what you’re putting in to your body.
Low Cholesterol- Does not mean low-fat.
Salt Free- Does not mean sodium-free. Watch for sodium bicarbonate and monosodium glutamate.
Sugar Free- Means there’s no sucrose but there may be other harmful sweeteners such as fructose, corn syrup, sorbitol or dextrose.
Shopping, I know, can sometimes be challenging and frustrating. Just arm yourself with the right tools to make an educated decision and suddenly, it may be and enjoyable adventure. The last bit of advice I can add, NEVER GROCERY SHOP WHILE YOU’RE HUNGRY!!!!