How to Read a Food Label Correctly
Food packaging can be confusing, and it’s sometimes hard to decipher the information on the front of the package with what’s on the back of the package, especially when you are trying to cut calories, fat, and carbohydrates from your diet.
Why You Should Read a Food Label on and off of the HCG Diet
Do you even read the labels on the food you buy? If you don’t, it is time to educate yourself and start reading the labels for yourself and your family. A food label is similar to a recipe, it tells you what is in the food you eat. In order to plan a healthy diet, you must know how to read a food label.
When trying to figure out what the food you are buying actually contains, ignore the front of the package hype! It is just that, marketing hype. Manufacturers can’t actually lie on a label, but they can stretch the truth to get your attention to buy their product.
Every packaged food item must include a list of ingredients. The ingredient in largest amount is listed first, while the one in smallest amount is listed last.
The Items That Make up a Food Label
– Recommended serving size/Calories per serving – The first items, at the top of the label, you’ll notice are serving size and servings per container. Serving size is a standard measure of food. Servings per container is the number of servings found in the package. Serving size can be expressed in kitchen terms such as cups, spoons, slices, ounces, and also in grams. Serving size tells how much food makes up a single serving. All information on the label is based on the serving size stated.
- Amount Per Serving – This shows the number of calories found in a single serving.
- Calories from fat – Food labels show calories from fat so you can limit the amount of fat you eat for a healthier diet. The rule of thumb is that no more than 30% of your daily calories should come from fat. Higher fat foods should be eaten in smaller portions.
- % Daily Value – This section tells you what percentage of the total recommended daily amount of each nutrient (fats, carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals) is in each serving, based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
- Total Fat – This equals the number of grams of fat per serving of the food.
- Saturated Fat – A fat that is solid at room temperature and comes from animal food products and some plants. Some examples of saturated fat include foods such as beef, lamb, pork, lard, butter, cream, whole milk, and high fat cheese. Plant sources include coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
- Trans Fat – Also known as trans fatty acid. Trans fat is a specific type of fat formed when liquid fats are made into solid fats by the addition of hydrogen atoms, in a process strangely enough known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenation solidifies liquid oils and increases the shelf life and the flavor stability of oils and foods that contain them. Trans fat is found in vegetable shortenings and in some margarine, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods. Small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in certain animal based foods. Trans fat is what is considered unhealthy fat. This fat is the type of fat you want to consume a lot of when you are on your loading days as stated in the HCG diet protocol specifics.
- Cholesterol – This line tells you how many milligrams of cholesterol and what percent this is of the recommended daily value.
- Sodium/salt – The latest recommendation for sodium is less than 2,400 mg of sodium per day, or about a teaspoon of table salt.
- Total carbohydrates – Tells you how many grams of carbohydrates are in each serving and the percentage of the daily value this represents. This number includes starches, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, added sugar sweeteners, and non-digestible additives.
- Fiber – Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate and aids in elimination. At least 15 grams of fiber per day are recommended.
- Protein – Many foods contain some protein but meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods are highest. Protein needs average between 50-100 grams per day.
- Percent Daily Values – This section gives some estimated nutrients per 2000 and 2500 calories.
Have you started to read more food labels since starting the HCG Diet? What things have you learned or learned to avoid since then?