Why I read nutrition labels, and you should too

Do you know what you’re eating?

Stay away from the Danger Zones – know your food labels. Nutrition is the hot topic on everyone’s mind and I always get asked about it.  

What should I eat? How many calories should I eat? The best way to eat is to eat food that you have prepared from scratch, include protein in every meal and as many fruit and vegetables as possible. That sounds great in a world where we all live in a kitchen, so let’s be real and admit that we all buy pre-packaged food sometimes. 

Packaged food

When we buy packaged food we need to check what’s in it, so I want to talk you through the basics of reading a nutrition label. Most of my readers are in the UK/Ireland and Australia so I’m going to cover both of these labels. Regardless of which label is relevant to you, you need to be aware of the danger zones below! After reading this article you can make better choices when grabbing food on the go.

Danger zones!

1. Serving size and number of servings per pack. 

If you pick up a large bag of chips, for example, it might have 5 servings in it. You might read the nutritional value for 1 serving, only intend to have 1 serving, and hence track that. However, how many times do you actually weigh out 1 serving and eat only that? The difference between what you think you’ve consumed and what you have actually consumer is a danger zone.

2. Low Protein content

If this is your first time reading labels I would prioritise looking at Energy, Protein and Fat. If the food is full of carbs, fat, sugar, salt and is high in energy, but not much protein, I would avoid it, it’s not adding much nutritional value to your plan. Think high protein.

Why should you be including protein in every meal when on a weight loss plan? 

  • When you’re reducing your calories and increasing your activity levels (creating a calorie deficit) you’ll be losing weight, yet that will be a combination of body fat and muscle. You need to protect your muscle, so eating protein will help maintain it, and actually increase it when combined with resistance training.
  • “High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolise, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them.
  • They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time.”1

3. Don’t be fooled by ‘low fat’ options

The natural assumption would be that reduced-fat or low-fat versions of food are healthier. However, if the original source of fat is being removed it is likely to be replaced with sugar or salt. “Read the nutrition information to compare sugar and fat content on the original and the reduced-fat product.

It’s worth checking salt too, as “low-fat” or “low-sugar” options can be higher in salt. If the “lower fat” version is not much lower in energy (kJ or kcal), it might be better to simply have a smaller amount of the original product”2

Let’s look at the labels

First up my current home; Australia.

This diagram is very detailed and tells you what each ingredient means. 

The main measure of energy is Kilojoules (kJ), so that’s the priority on the food label, and then some might have Calories (kCal) too. 

  UK + Ireland Same rules apply to the detail on the diagram above, though the labels below are what you'll see on food products in the shops in the UK and Ireland. The additional information here is the percentage value against of the recommended intake for an average adult.   UK + Ireland Same rules apply to the detail on the diagram above, though the labels below are what you’ll see on food products in the shops in the UK and Ireland. The additional information here is the percentage value against of the recommended intake for an average adult.

On the front of the food packaging you will also see this traffic light system, which acts as a quick reference guide. “Colour-coded nutritional information, as shown in the image above, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.”3

  • Red means high
  • Amber means medium
  • Green means low

Start making this a new habit today, when you go to the shops later and pick something up, turn it over and start reading the label. It could really change the way you eat, and the results you get from your plan.

 

Good luck! Comment below with any questions or reach out for personalised training and nutrition advice all available as part of the 6 week Shape Shock program. 

Lucy x

 

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Sources:

1 http://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/protein-weight-loss 2. https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/sugar-salt-and-fat/10-tips-for-understanding-food-labels 3. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/food-labelling.aspx

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