What I Eat Wednesday: How to Read Nutrition Labels

2012-12-25 19.05.35Although I prefer not to eat processed foods, sometimes clean foods do come pre-packaged.  For this reason, I think knowing how to read a nutrition label is extremely important if you want to take charge of your nutrition and health.

I think this blog post will be helpful for anyone making small changes to their diet to kick start their weight loss journey in 2013.

My process for explaining this topic will be simple, I will list out what I think is important to look at on a nutrition label and why.

Before I start, I just want to remind you all that I am not a nutritionist.  All the information I provided on my blog is based on my own personal research and experience. I highly encourage you to speak with a trained professional before you make any changes to your diet.

2012-12-25 19.06.01

Based on how I look at creating a nutrition plan, when I read a nutrition label I look at the following fields:

Ingredients: Used to describe what the food item was made from. This is the first section of the nutrition label that I refer to.

Why? This is going to give me my first indication on whether I should continue on to the next fields. I base my meal plans on the Eat Clean Diet along with macro-nutrient portion control. So, if I cannot pronounce one of the ingredients, chances are it isn’t clean and I am not going to put it in my body.  You should be able to recognize all of the ingredients listed.

Sugar:  Used to describe how much sugar is in a serving size. Normally this is listed out in grams. I go by the rule, it must contain 6g or less of sugar per serving.

Why? The reason America has the highest obesity rate is because of the amount of processed sugars we consume. The only sugar food should contain, is what is naturally found in the ingredients used.  Unless its a fruit, try to stay away from anything that has more than 6g of sugar. If it contains more than 6g, chances are a processed sugar was added in to improve the flavor.  When in doubt I always refer back to the ingredient section.

Protein: Used to describe how much protein is in a serving size. I personally consume 25-30g of protein per meal.  The US (blank) recommends you consume 0.38g per lbs of body weight.  Depending on your fitness goals you can adjust this accordingly. However, there is no need to go above 1g per lb of body weight.

Why? Protein helps build muscle and in turn, burn fat.  If you are weight training you should be consuming protein directly afterwards to make sure your body is receiving the amino acids needed to rebuild your muscles.

Carbohydrates:  Used to describe how many carbohydrates in grams you will be consuming per serving size. There are 2 different kinds of carbs, simple carbs and complex carbs.  Complex carbs will be released slower into your blood stream and won’t spike your insulin levels as quickly as simple carbs will.

Why?  If you don’t know by now, the true culprit of fat is excess carbohydrates.  Earlier I discussed sugar, well guess is a carbohydrate, so are starches.  So if you consume more than your body needs it will take the left over and store it as fat in your body.  Try to always combine your carbohydrates with a protein or a fat to minimize the spike in your insulin levels.  I personally only consume 20-30g of carbohydrates per meal.

Reading the nutrition labels on pre-packaged food will help you decide what is a good meal choice depending on how many calories, carbohydrates, fats, you need to consume per meal/day.

What do you normally look for when you read nutrition labels?
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