How to Read Food Labels for Healthy Eating
Root 1: Nutrition: Food Ethos: Real Food
‘If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.’ – Michael Pollan, Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual
In the modern world, we have convenience at our fingertips, where everything that is quick and easy is marketed as supportive and less time-consuming. Understandably, we live busy lives and striking the balance between work, play, family and nutrition can feel like walking a tightrope. We find ways to cut corners and sometimes that also means with our food and ultimately our health and wellbeing.
Reading and understanding food labels can really help you to distinguish which options are better for you. A great place to begin is to look for ingredients you recognise as a food and if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it, it’s best not to eat it. Some ingredients read like something from a science lab. If you’re not sure what it is do you really want it in your body?
Some things to consider when looking at food labels:
- Ingredient list. The first item listed is the greater percentage of that product, so Granola you would expect to find Oats as the first ingredient.
- On the nutritional information per 100g, Carbohydrates are listed below and ‘of which is sugars’ gives you the percentage of sugar in that product. Next to that it should be the amount per serving. Remember 4-5gm = 1 tsp
- Please be aware of artificial flavourings as these are not derived from natural sources.
- Look out for GM (Genetically Modified) ingredients and avoid them.
Food should be as minimally processed as possible, often this means that more vitamins, minerals and fiber are kept in the food. This makes them more nutrient dense, but they also fill us up and keep us satiated for longer. Furthermore, these foods have less of a negative impact on our blood sugar levels. Take brown rice over white rice, for example, as it still contains its fibrousness. The same goes for your protein choices, be mindful that the food you source has been minimally processed. Maybe visit the butcher in your local supermarket for a fresh cut of meat rather than buying the preserved version in the plastic wrapping.
With the rise of digestive issues, dietary intolerances and allergies understanding labels gives you knowledge and control of what goes into your food. Binders, fillers, artificial preservatives, colours and flavorings, to name a few, are additions that we don’t need when cooking from scratch with natural ingredients.
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