Tips for how-to read “boxed foods” to help you make the best choices so you can take care of your body and family and live well and be as healthy as you possibly can.
Eating healthy can be confusing and overwhelming. What should you make? How do you even cook healthy meals that taste good? When should you prep things? What kind of things should you be buying at the store? Just because you’re shopping at the health food store doesn’t mean it’s healthy or the best choice for you. It’s a lot to handle and can be super overwhelming at times. Learn to read labels and understand what they really mean.
Don’t judge a box by its cover.
Words like “light”, “low-fat”, “natural”, “organic” and “multigrain” sometimes don’t tell you the whole story about the products you’re about to buy. Make sure you don’t only read the front of the box or focus on one thing. For example, “light” ice cream might contain added sugar to make up for the bad taste once the fat has been removed and “light” ice cream may not differ much from regular ice cream with the number of calories and/or salt.
Always read the entire ingredient list.
We read and go over ingredients for recipes we make so why not for products we buy? Ingredients are listed by quantity from highest to lowest. Try looking for products that list whole foods as the first three ingredients and try to stay away from “foods” with long lists of ingredients.
Check the Serving Size.
I am not a fan of math problems but if you’re really interested in knowing the nutritional value of what you’re eating, you need to multiply the serving given on the back by the number of servings you consumed. Serving sizes can be misleading and unrealistic and sometimes companies often list a much smaller amount than what most people consume in one sitting. For example, one serving maybe a quarter of a cookie or just one-third of a muffin. Many people are unaware of this serving size scheme, assuming that the entire container is a single serving, when in truth it may consist of two, three, or more servings.
Check the sugar.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. (Yeah, I went there...) On average, U.S. adults are consuming far too much sugar. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day instead of the 6 teaspoons that the American Heart Association recommends.
Be aware that sugar has many names: sugar, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, and more!
Try to avoid foods with added refined caloric sweeteners in the first three to five ingredients. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, the lower down the label you find added sugars, the better. In a sugar cube - if a packaged food contains sugar in the first 3 ingredients, avoid it. If a packaged food contains more than one type of sugar, avoid it.
Check the sodium.
Foods with 140mg of sodium or less per serving are considered low sodium foods. Your daily goal if you have high blood pressure (according to the American Heart Association) is only 1,500mg of sodium per day. Other adults should aim for less than 2,300mg of sodium a day, which is equal to 1 teaspoon of salt instead of the average 3,400mg of sodium per day Americans are consuming.
Check the fat.
As a rule of thumb, a low-fat food contains 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Foods with 1 gram or less per serving are considered low in saturated fat. For healthy arteries and better overall health, it is best to completely avoid trans-fat. Look for foods with 0 grams of trans fat.
If the product sounds too good to be true, it just may be. Thousands of new products come out every year, many trying to cash in on the latest diet fad. Many may not be carefully regulated (if at all).
During your first few trips to the grocery store, give yourself extra time to evaluate products. Once you’ve found products that you enjoy and that meet these healthy guidelines, shopping becomes quick and easy. You and your health are worth it.