Reading nutrition labels is an essential part of healthy eating. It’s one of the top tips I find myself sharing with clients over and over. And it’s a tip that can help you make smart food choices, for the long term.
WHY READING NUTRITION LABELS IS ESSENTIAL TO HEALTHY EATING
‘No Sugar Added’ – ‘Healthy’ – ‘Light & Fit’ – ‘All-Natural’ – ‘Half the fat’ – ‘Fat Free’ – ‘Low carb’ – ‘Contains real fruit’ – Super-Healthy-Fed-By-Hand-Massaged-Everyday-Gluten-Free-Dairy-Free-Corn-Free-Egg-Free-Carb-Free-Fat-Free-FLAVORLESS’.
Okay, that last one was a bit much, but with some of the claims on food packaging these days, it wouldn’t surprise me to see something similar. Because I tend to do gluten-free and dairy-free, my husband always says, ‘I gotta get the dairy-gluten-soy-love-blahblahblah free version of whatever food.’ When he got my engagement ring, he was like, ‘This is a grass-fed-cruelty-free-gluten-and-dairy-free ring.’ I chuckled. Okay, enough with the hyphens…
We are talking about one of my top healthy living tips today: Reading Nutrition Labels.
In the past week, I took on 2 new nutrition coaching clients and because of that, I’ve done a couple grocery store tours. I’ve come to really enjoy grocery store tours because more often then not, even if a client thinks they are eating healthy, they are still really surprised by some of things I bring up. Their eyes get the largest when I compare items and show them the difference in product quality by reading nutrition labels.
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One common item that gets a big ‘Wow, I had no idea’ is yogurt. Everyone probably thinks yogurt is pretty heathy across the board, right? It’s full of probiotics, the label says it’s ‘Light & Fit’, there is fruit in it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s so wrong.
Let’s do a quick compare and contrast:
You’ll notice this yogurt has quite a few ingredients on it’s label. Not really sure what some of these ingredients are, to be honest. Why is caramel color needed for a vanilla yogurt? It’s usually white right, or is that just me? And the sugar content – I tend to recommend choosing an option where the sugar content is NOT higher than the protein content. It claims to be ‘Light & Fit’ on the packaging, but when we turn it over, we can see it might not be the absolute best option to consume. Side bar: I used to eat this yogurt all the time!
This label is not only pretty, but it’s ingredient list is not very long and I know what everything is. Those funny looking words towards the bottom are the strands of probiotics – alot more than the other vanilla option. Notice there is vanilla flavoring rather than color and take a look at that protein content: 21 g compared to 5g in the other. And it’s got more protein than sugar – win, win.
I know there is alot more that comes with reading an ingredient label, like the fat, carb and other nutrition content, but I tend to focus on the ingredients as a first step with my nutrition clients. Starting a healthy lifestyle can be overwhelming, so I like to take baby steps and then discuss other parts of the label after. If I know all the ingredients and the list is short, then it’s likely I’ll be getting a pretty quality product. If I can’t make something, then a store bought variety with minimal (and quality) ingredients is the way I go.
Take the yogurt for example. Yes, grabbing a little carton of yogurt is quick and easy. But, you know what is just as easy (and maybe tastier?): grabbing a big container of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt (Siggi’s anyone?) and setting aside ~5 minutes on food prep day to make your own. In addition to the yogurt, you’ll need some fresh or frozen berries and maybe some honey / maple syrup / coconut sugar. You could always toss on some nuts or homemade granola. Add to small mason jars, store in the fridge, take out when you want a yogurt. Done.
This way, you know EXACTLY what is going into your yogurt (and your body), it fits nicely into your food prep schedule (hello ~5 minutes for MULTIPLE tasty & nutritious snacks through the week) and you can feel confident that you are eating food that will properly fuel your body.
When I first started healthy eating, my grocery trips lasted a bit on the long side. At that point, I was doing my elimination diet and couldn’t consume any of my ‘off limits’ foods, so checking labels was vital to me getting better.
If you have extra time to spare at the store, start checking labels and see what you find. If you are strapped for time, take one item at a time. For you, maybe it’s yogurt, for others it might be that 35 calorie ‘light’ bread, for others, it might be nut butters or jelly’s. If it feels overwhelming, just take it one step at a time.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that healthy living is a journey. It doesn’t work to magically fix everything in one swoop and be good for life. Things are always changing and it takes time.
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First of all, like my glam shot? This was taken over a year ago for my Warby Parker At-Home Try On. I was racking my brain to figure out a good graphic for this post and then I remembered these glasses shots I had. I think it works quite well! And it makes me miss my short hair so much! This long, untamed curly mess is tough!
So, I went to write a post for today and I was out of ideas…well, I had a few ideas, but not the time to research and write a post. Somewhere along the lines in the last week or so, ‘Plan content calendar’ either got crossed off my to-do list or I forgot to write it. I have my Monday posts ready and my Friday posts (guys, I CANNOT EVEN WAIT for Friday’s post!), but all my Wednesday nutrition posts are not figured out yet.
What better way to decide what to write then to ask you! What you do you want to see, regarding nutrition, on the blog over the next few weeks? Do you have a specific nutrition question or topic you would like me to cover? I’m open to anything! Share what you want to see in the comments!
Do you practice reading nutrition labels? Do you find it important?