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How To Read And Understand Food Labels

The food industry does a fantastic job at selling their products, and an even better job at making you believe the products you are buying are healthy. If you think the big box corporations care about your health, think again. They care about you BUYING their products, that’s it!

Which is why it is so important to be armed with information if you wish to live a healthier lifestyle. I know it can be tough to decode and unravel all the hidden messages coming at us these days. So let me make the buying process a little easier, so you can become the informed consumer!

How to read food labels: The basics

Firstly, you need to know that extreme dedication, detail, and testing goes into marketing a product. Every colour, word, picture and placement is where it should be for a reason.

Corporations are extremely good at wording things in such a way that becomes very misleading. High sugar cereals that I wouldn’t even eat for dessert are being advertised as whole grain, or great sources of vitamin D. This takes your attention away from the fact that there is no nutritional value. Everything is designed to draw your attention to specific details.

For example:

If a product is labelled Light, what it really means is it has been processed to reduce fat or overall calories, and sugar has most likely replaced those calories.

If a product is labelled fortified or enriched it simply means that nutrients were added in.

If labelled Natural ( this is my favourite) it means that at some point, some natural sources WERE present in the making of the product.

These are just a few examples of how careful and clever these companies are when marketing their products.

So step one is ignore everything you read on the FRONT of the product, and immediately turn to the back.

Once on the back, take a look at the serving size, and make sure you know how much that is. Remember, 1 cup isn't really that big, and if you have more, you have to double everything on the list. Check the calories, and WHERE those calories are coming from.

An average general daily macronutrient intake should look like this:

60-70% Carbohydrate

15-20% Protein

15-20% Fat

( 5% polyunsaturated - Omega 3 & 6)

( 5% monounsaturated)

( 5% saturated)

Now, every person is different, and many variables come into play when formulating your diet. Please use those numbers as a general guideline.

Make sure you read the ingredient list!

Product ingredients are listed in order of largest to smallest amount or quantity. The first 3 ingredients are most prevalent, and the rest are in trace amounts. Also keep in mind you probably don’t want to be eating a product that has a laundry list of ingredients you cannot pronounce.

So if sugar, for example, is the second ingredient in a product, you can bet there is A LOT of it. But what if it doesn’t say sugar?

As we’ve already discussed, companies have a clever way of tricking you into thinking products are healthy, and they don’t just do it on the cover, it happens in the ingredients list as well.

Did you know there are about 50 different names for sugar?

Sorry... what???

Now we know why buying healthy products can be so hard. There are many hidden words that we don’t understand that mean NOT HEALTHY.

Here is a list of different names for sugar:

Beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, golden sugar, organic raw sugar, barley malt, molasses, cane juice crystals, lactose, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, disaccharides, maltodextrin and maltose.evaporated cane juice and confectioner’s sugar, carob syrup, golden syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, maple syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup and rice syrup.

Every one of those ingredients mimic sugar in the body. So next time you’re shopping, bring a snapshot of that list, it'll save you in the end.

I hope you found this article helpful, and remember, in the end it is always better to buy whole foods that don’t need an ingredient list. I understand time is always against us, but we always find a way to MAKE time for what is important. Let cooking wholesome nutritional meals be one of them!

Amanda xo

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