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  • Writer's pictureKaren Graham

How to Read a Food Label

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Five Easy Tips

1st. Look at your labels at home. Get out your reading glasses! Sit down with a glass of water or a cup of tea and look at a few products from your fridge, freezer or shelves. Become familiar with what is on the labels of the foods you buy.

2nd. Look at calories. Manufacturers often sneak calories into products as extra fat or sugar. Compare products, for example, a couple of boxes of different breakfast cereals or different types of cookies. The best choice is often the one which is lower in calories, based on the serving size. Pay special attention to the serving size and how much you actually eat.

3rd. Look for sugar. There is sugar in natural whole foods such as fruit and milk, but you want to avoid excess added sugar or food that has been liquefied or over-processed. 4 g of added sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. For example, chocolate milk has an extra 3 tsp (12 g) of sugar added compared to white milk — not a good choice. Another example, unsweetened juice has a lot of natural sugar in a liquid form that raises your blood sugar quickly. 1 cup of apple juice has more sugar than 1 cup of Coke or Pepsi — juice and colas are not good choices.

4th. Look at sodium. If a food serving has 30% sodium, that means it’s salty and eating that serving will give you one third of the sodium you need for the whole day. The lower the percentage, the less salt is in the food product.

5th. Fiber is good! It will be listed as a carbohydrate but your body doesn’t digest fiber. Fiber is good for your gut bacteria — these bacteria help your immune system which helps you stay healthy, and they may help manage your appetite too. Fiber also helps slow down the absorption of carbohydrate into your blood stream.

More tips in Karen’s books.

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