Hello! Coach Courtney here!
I want to talk about common nutrition label misconceptions and raise a bit of awareness along the way. I recall never paying attention to nutrition labels years ago, I ate what I wanted and didn’t pay any mind to them. They were just facts that I had no regard for. When I began my weight loss journey, it was a shock to the system at how important they are. Knowing what you’re putting into your body makes a huge difference in the long run, especially when the goal is to achieve not only weight loss but overall good quality health.
We have all been there, scanning the label, looking at the calories, fat, protein, searching for that perfect product that will work for our plan. I am always scanning everything I buy and analyzing each product for nutritional info.
Let’s talk about the general misconceptions of the nutritional label!
I’ll start with my favorite, low fat. Buying low-fat means few calories, right? That’s always a nice win, and it can be true in many cases, but low fat does not always mean fewer calories. Also, you may end up eating more in the long run because less fat will leave you not feeling as full as you could feel with a higher fat option. Less likely to satisfy at times. It’s a good idea to read the nutrition label in its entirety, a high protein low-fat option is your best bet, the protein will help satisfy longer. Read more on that importance HERE.
Calories and serving sizes are also very often misunderstood. Calories in short are the energy your body gets from a serving of food. It is very common for people to not be conscious of the serving size in a package. You must keep in mind the number of calories your body is burning daily for energy when thinking about how many calories you should consume. For example, there are 150 calories in one serving of your favorite potato chips, the most accurate way to make sure your serving size is appropriate is to use a food scale and weigh in grams. It is more accurate than counting the number of chips listed as the serving size. A nutrition label will list the serving size in grams, sometimes in ml’s if it’s a sauce. You would be surprised to see the difference in grams VS the number of chips in the end. To sum it up, make sure you pay attention to your serving sizes, many do not. I was that person at one time!
Another very common misconception of the nutrition label is Organic. In more recent years many people have hopped on all organic trends. It’s known to be healthier, better for our environment, and safer in general. There are many guidelines that foods must meet to be considered organic. Generally, people see the organic label and automatically think it’s the healthiest option available. The truth is, if a food is labeled as organic it does not always mean that it is in fact safer or more environmentally friendly, there are many things that can go wrong in the process of farming just like any other food available at the grocery store.
Back to calories again, just because a food is lower in calories you should still pay attention to the little extras such as saturated fat, sodium, and extra sugars. These specific numbers if higher are usually associated with negative health effects. Awareness of these factors will keep you healthier in the long run also. As an example, total sugars are natural in nutrient-rich food and drinks, added sugars come into play during the processing of foods. To avoid those added sugars lookout for a label to say, “includes added sugars”. Look for foods that are higher in fiber, protein, and calcium. I promise you will thank yourself later!
Finally, the percentage of daily values. I have never (until recently) paid attention to this. You notice at the very far right there are percentages listed next to each nutritional value. This is the percentage of what is in that food or drink that makes up 100% of your daily nutritional, this references nutrients to consume each day or not to exceed. This is extremely helpful in deciding if it’s too much or too high for your dietary needs. Fun fact: 20% of a daily value is considered on the high end, and 5% on the low end.
To sum it up, this will help determine if a serving is too high or too low in nutrients.
To keep these factors in mind can seem overwhelming, but when you become mindful of these factors and keep the practice consistent, it really becomes second nature over time. Basic tracking is easy, but for someone who wants to be a little more health-conscious understanding the meanings of these variables can make all the difference in your day-to-day!