The grocery store is where it all starts: the foundation of your diet that is. It is formed by how you choose to stock your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Grocery shopping can be intimidating: trying to choose the healthiest foods from the thousands of options the grocery store offers is overwhelming for most people. To help you navigate aisle by aisle at the store, these are some tips on what to look for on a food label.
- Serving size – All the information is based on the serving size. Remember, if you eat more or less than one serving, the amounts will change. For example, the serving size is ½ cup. If you eat 1 cup which is 2 servings, the calories and other nutrients will be doubled.
- Servings per Container – This is the total number of servings in the container. Every container is different. A small container does not always mean one serving.
- Calories – If you eat more than one serving the calories will increase.
- Calories from Fat – The total number of calories from fat in one serving.
5. Percent Daily Value – Shows how the food fits into a 2000 calorie diet for the whole day. A 5% DV or less is low. 20% DV or more is high.
6. Total Fat – This includes the healthy unsaturated fats as well as the harmful saturated and Trans fats. Watch your total fat intake. For a 2000 calorie diet, keep total fat intake to less than 65 grams each day.
7. Saturated Fat – Limit your intake of saturated fat. For a 2000 calorie diet, keep total fat intake to less than 20 grams each day.
8. Trans Fat – Avoid Trans fat. Check the ingredient list and limit foods made with hydrogenated vegetables oil because this translates into Trans fat.
9. Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats – Healthier fats such as canola and olive oils.
10. Cholesterol – Keep your intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg each day.
11. Sodium – Keep sodium intake to less than 2400 mg each day.
12. Total Carbohydrates – This number includes the total amount of carbohydrates, sugars and fiber.
13. Dietary Fiber – The amount of fiber in one serving. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber each day.
14. Sugars – This includes both the added and natural sugars found in the food.
15. Protein – The total amount of protein in one serving.
16. Vitamins, A & C, Calcium and Iron – Refers to the % of daily value of the vitamins and minerals in one serving.
It is also important to use the ingredient list to look for hidden fats, sugars and other ingredients that are not healthy. When looking at a food ingredient list a few things you will want to look for are: whole grains that have not been fortified or enriched. Enriched means adding back vitamins, minerals and fiber that were lost during food processing: and fortified means adding vitamins, minerals and fiber that were not present originally. Look for 100% whole wheat, whole oats or whole grains. Check for added sugars such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, maple syrup and fruit juice concentrate. Trans and saturated fats are described as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and hydrogenated vegetable oils and last but not least sodium in the form of salt and monosodium glutamate.