Recently, the FDA partially changed the layout of nutrition labels so they could be more clear. For some, reading labels can be difficult or confusing to know what to look for. While all the ingredients are important, there are a few key ingredients to look at on nutrition labels that can help you eat a healthy diet.
1. Serving Size
While this isn’t an ingredient, it will make all of the ingredients listed make sense. A food product may appear healthy because it says 100 calories, but if that’s per serving and there are 3 servings, you may end up eating triple the calories that you wanted.
The serving size tells you how much of each ingredient is in the entire product and how much to eat if you only want some of the food. Being aware of the serving sizes of what you’re eating can trim your waistline in no time.
This may seem like the most obvious of the key ingredients to look at on nutrition labels, but some people will simply glance over the number. Other may see that the number is low so it’s “good enough” and eat it all.
About ⅓ of Americans are obese because they do not fully understand calories and what that means. If you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn.
So, even if you’re burning calories at the gym, seeing that something is healthy and isn’t high in calories doesn’t mean that it won’t push you over your daily needed intake.
Additionally, looking at calories from fat can help you avoid unhealthy or “empty” calories that are from an unhealthy source.
Sugar significantly contributes to health problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Americans, on average, eat 82 grams of sugar a day when the recommended amount is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Adding an average of 66 pounds of excess sugar per year to your diet can greatly increase your risk for heart problems.
On the new nutrition labels, there is now a section for added sugar. Added sugar is whatever is not naturally in the food. This is typically what makes foods unhealthy and contributes to weight gain and other health issues.
Avoid added sugars and carefully read how much sugar is in what you’re eating. Even various greek yogurts and peanut butter can be high in sugar, despiting appearing healthy.
Similar to sugar, Americans eat much more salt than the recommended amount. The recommended intake is 2,300 mg and Americans eat about 3,400 mg on average.
Consuming too much salt each day can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart disease.
Sodium can be hidden in foods that you may not expect, like deli meat, soft and sports drinks, sauces, and frozen meals. Be sure to look at the nutrition labels to see what percent of your daily value of sodium it contains and avoid foods with too much.
5. Fat and Cholesterol
Fat and cholesterol are two of the key ingredients to look at on nutrition labels because both of these can lead to clogged arteries and heart attack or heart failure.
Fat and cholesterol also lead to weight gain and obesity. Foods that are greasy or fried damage your arteries and heart.
Look for the total fat and saturated fat when reading a nutrition label. Saturated fat is also bad for you and damages your body.
Not all cholesterol is bad, so that one may be tricky. Foods like avocado and olive oil contain good cholesterol and fat. However, eating too much can still cause problems, so eat them sparingly.