- I have been a teacher of fitness and health for thirty years. In 1989 I was certified for personal training with the National Acadamy of Sports Medicine. I had a gym in Santa Barbara for eight years. Co-owned and created a spinning bike company which manufactured bikes for five years. Also I have worked with nutrition companies for twenty years. Along with many wonderful non famous people I have trained many celebrities, and members of the Royal Family. My own athletic past consists of long distance running, long distance cycling, cross country skiing, down hill skiing, rollerblading, hiking, sand running, track work, and weight training. I have authored two fitness columns in local papers, and have been writing this blog since January 2010.
Monday, March 29, 2010
How to Read a Food Label
Reading food labels are important if you want to be assured of getting healthy foods into your body. Most people know about the calorie count when reading food labels, but there is a lot more information for you on these labels if you are able to understand what they mean.
First off, you need to know that all food labels are based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Some may offer the information for 2,500 calories as well. This is an assumption that the average daily diet is 2,000 calories a day.
Just by looking around at all the obese people that I see, and knowing the facts of how many people are over weight and obese in the U.S., it is pretty obvious that most people are not sticking to the 2,000 calories a day program.
They need a baseline, and that is what it is, so all of the stats on the label are for 2,000 calories. When you see a percentage of how much your daily values are such as sodium, or fiber, that is only if you are eating 2,000 calories a day.
You also need to note the serving size. If it says a 1 cup is a serving, and you have two cups, you need to double all the fact information on the label to apply to the amount that you ate. Usually serving sizes are very conservative, smaller than what many of us eat. So when it says 200 calories per serving, and you eat double the serving, you must double the calories that you are counting, along with all of the other info on the label.
If the fat percentage on a label reads more than 25 to 30 percent, it is not a healthy choice if you are trying to lose fat. Especially if you are eating more than the serving size recommends.
If a label says "fat free" it has to by law have less than 0.5 grams per serving. If it says "low fat" it must comply with 3 grams of fat or less per serving. If it say "lean" it must have less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and no more than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
If the label says "light (lite)" it must have 1/3 or no more than half the fat of the higher calorie. higher fat version. Hopefully the higher version is not over the top with fat. When a label says "Cholesterol free", it must have less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol, or 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.
Your cholesterol intake should be under 300 milligrams in a day for a healthy diet. Your sodium intake should not go over 2400 milligrams in a day for optimum health results.
When reading the ingredient list, remember that they list them by amounts. The ingredient that is in the product the most will be the first ingredient listed. For instance in many processed cereals the first ingredient might be bleached flour, the second ingredient might be sugar. That means that this cereal has mostly bleached flour, (non nutritious) and sugar (also non nutritious) in it. Not a good choice if you are trying to be healthy and lean.
If you are reading the ingredient list and find words that you do not know what they are, or cannot pronounce, it is probably not a good choice to eat. Many processed foods have preservatives, chemicals, artificial flavors and colorings, that you just should not eat if you are looking for healthy choices.
Natures foods do not need any labels. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fresh lean proteins, are assured to provide you with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and amino acids that are pure of the negative health effects of processed foods.
So read your labels if you are eating processed foods to make sure that you are making healthier choices. You will find that many things that you have been eating, and thought were O.K., are simply not. Choose health by taking control of what you are eating. Educate yourself by reading the labels!