5 Quick Steps To Mastering Food Label
evaluating food label ingredients in 15 seconds or less
By checking off the trans fat, sugar, and sodium listed above, we’re assured there won’t be any MSG, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils in this section.
Today I want to share with you some quick tips on how you can
evaluate a food label in 15 seconds or less and know if that food
is healthy or not!
It’s really important to know how to read the basics of a food
label because sometimes that’s the only way you’re going to know
what you’re really eating. Here’s a quick checklist you can use to
evaluate the foods you are buying.
Trans and saturated fats
In the U.S., all packaged foods come with a nutrition facts label.
The first place my eyes go is to the fat content. I draw my
personal line in the sand at trans fat. We don’t need it, and there
is always another food option without it. Trans fat is man-made fat
that comes from dubious preparation processes. If an item has any,
it goes back on the shelf.
Next, I look at saturated fat. We don’t need much of it, and if we
eat meat or dairy products, then we have probably met our
requirements without it needing to be in our other foods.
Next to the number of grams, you’ll see the percentage of your
daily requirement that the food contains, eliminating the need for
math. If that number is high, be wary. Of course, you must evaluate
what you’re buying. Olive oil, for example, is a fat, so it’s going
to have a high number. However, you don’t use much. Potato chips,
on the other hand, would have a lower number, but you might eat the
entire bag, so you should consider that. But that’s obvious stuff,
Get instantly suspicious if this number is high. Sports foods are
supposed to have sugar because you want to quickly replace blood
glycogen lost during exercise. All other foods don’t need it. If
you’re buying a dessert item, you’ll expect a high ratio of sugar,
but for anything else, you’re probably getting a cheap product
that’s poorly produced. Remember that many “low-fat” foods have a
lot of sugar–it’s not technically fat. It just makes you fat.
Prepared foods usually have high levels of sodium. Also,
oftentimes, you can find an “organic, nonfat, low-carb,” purely
healthy sounding food item that has over 1,000 milligrams of
sodium, which is around half of your “recommended daily allowance”
(RDA). What you’re generally looking for from these three “s”
ingredients (saturated fat, sugar, and sodium) is a low number, and
it only takes a few seconds to figure it out.
Fat, Protein, and Carbs Ratio
When choosing a food, you probably already know a few things about
it. If it’s butter, you’ll expect all fat; candy will be high in
sugar; and things that sit on a shelf may have a lot of sodium. For
meals, however, you’ll want to take a quick notation of the amount
of fat, protein, and carbs.
If you’re on a strict diet, this ratio is very important, but if
you’re not, you just want some balance. A nice round number is 40
percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. You can then
assume that your prepared “meals” would be better if they reflect a
Length of Ingredient List
Now just take a quick glance at where it says “Ingredients.” If
it’s under about 10 items, don’t worry about it. If there’s a long
list of ingredients, take caution. There will be ingredients that
you can’t pronounce and you might not want to be eating things you
can’t even pronounce. If it’s somewhere in the middle, I may take
a closer look, but in general I keep it simple.
There are a few “evil offender” ingredients on food label that people tend to
look for, but we’ve covered them. By checking off the trans fat,
sugar, and sodium listed above, we’re assured there won’t be any
MSG, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils in this
By adding a mere 15 seconds per item, you may not have the perfect
diet, but you can certainly make sure it’s not terrible. This is
not an exact science, but your diet doesn’t have to be either. Eat
better and get more exercise. Beyond this, we’re nitpicking.
That’s it for today. I hope you learned something. Now go put it
to good use!
Dr. Justin Trosclair
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