Oh no! – I hear the collective gasps of fear from you, and I understand why. Truth be told, nutritional labels are definitely not the easiest thing to learn. It does require some knowledge about energy systems as well as some basic mathematics. It’s really not that hard, but unless someone holds your hand and walks you through the process, you’ll be confused, and I understand that!
Is it important? Well, truth be told, it’s not necessarily that important to know. But it is always good if you know what is going into your body. In fact, I hold it in such high regard that I even devoted a whole chapter in my book Strategic Nutrition Guide. And yes, I describe it in bite-sized chunks. The feedback I have received from previous customers is that it’s fantastic – so go ahead and grab the book if you haven’t already.
In the interest of being generous, and also because I want the best for you and hope that you can succeed in your weight loss goals, I am going to provide a brief rundown on how to read nutritional labels. Now, this is just going to be a very basic introduction, but some knowledge is still infinitely better than no knowledge. If anything, I want to take away your fear of the label, so that you can be encouraged to learn more about it in the Strategic Nutrition Guide.
One – Fat Content
Let’s start with the most obvious one – fat. Some people think that dietary fat equates to body fat. This is something I will not go into in this post. One thing I do want to highlight is that while all fats contain the same amount of calories, not all of them are equal when it comes to how it affects your hormones. Try to avoid or at least minimise trans-fats or saturated fats if possible.
Two – Sugar Content
In the world of sugar there are what’s called “natural” sugars and “added” sugars. Some foods naturally contain sugars i.e. fruit, milk, yoghurts, and these can be healthy. They might appear high if you are just looking for a number on a label, but in reality they are harmless except, of course, in high quantities. The thing you must watch out for are “added” sugars, which are artificial. Beware of it!
Three – Carbohydrates
You probably have heard of the term “carbs” being tossed around in the health and fitness industry. If you don’t know what it is, it’s the main type of fuel which our bodies use to power our activities. And yes, sugars are a type of carb. The other main type of carb apart from sugar is starch, which is what you find in potatoes, rice, pasta, and a whole range of vegetables, amongst other things.
Four – Protein
Proteins are the stuff that muscles are made of. In theory, health professionals always encourage people to increase their protein intake as opposed to carbs or fats. To a certain extent this would be good advice. However, do note that breaking down protein is an intensive process, and so having too much of it can strain some of your organs.
Five – Calories
This is one of the most important things that you should look out for on nutritional labels. Calories are the amount of energy each serving of the product in question can provide – which means that consuming too much of it will inadvertently result in weight gain! Not all calories are created equal though…. but this is not the time and place to discuss it.
Six – Sodium
You probably already know that this simply refers to the amount of salt one takes. Although it does not contain any calories, you’ll want to limit the amount of sodium in your diet. In fact, the recommendation is only 2,300 per day, which most of us vastly exceeds.
Seven – Fibre
Unlike sodium, you will want to try and increase the amount of fibre in your diet. Fibre is known to slow digestion down, which helps one stay fuller for a longer period of time. This also keeps your hunger pangs at bay.
You probably have noticed that this article only touches on some elements that can be found on nutritional labels, but does not actually teach you how to decode the numbers and what they actually stand for. Well, this is intentional because I do not wish to overload you with too much information. Once you are ready, however, I encourage you to learn more about it in the Strategic Nutrition Guide, where a lot more detail is provided – in simple language of course!
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