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Mind Body Eating Coach in Training

La Fare

Pierrerue, France

  • Foodie in Provence

How To Read Nutrition Labels



Do you get easily confused while strolling the supermarket aisles? Have you been told to read nutrition labels but you consider it a waste of time (especially with a toddler climbing out of the shopping trolley)? Look no further! Here are some simple tips how to shop for the healthiest foods even if they come in a box.

How To Read Nutrition Labels

Well, well, the best advice is to simply not eat any processed foods at all. But let's be honest, we all are busy people with jobs, we are busy moms with a family to feed. Yes, eating healthy is a priority, but, hey, there are times when we just FORGET to plan a dinner!

But even if you opt for a food in a box, you should never buy products which have these INGREDIENTS: artificial colors, artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

Don't worry about these:

CALORIES: The new nutrition labels increased the type size for “Calories.” But food is not just a source of energy and calories. Food is information. [1] That is where online food trackers don't get the job right, because 100 calories from 1/3 of a healthy fat such as avocado do not equal 100 calories from 2 Oreo cookies.

FATS: More and more scientists are confirming that calories coming from healthy fats are better for weight loss and improving metabolism. Of course, it depends on the quality of fats. If the product contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, you should rather choose a product with butter.

Watch out for these:

TRANS FATS: As manufacturers are allowed to use a phrase "zero trans fats" on a label as long as the product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving, do not believe that the product is trans fat free. Look at the ingredient list and see if it contains some hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. If yes, put it back on the shelf.

UNREGULATED CLAIMS: "All natural ingredients," or "100 percent natural", "No artificial preservatives", "Real fruit". I am sure you have seen many packages with claims like that. But just because the package shows a picture of an apple, it doesn't mean the apple is really in there. Statements like these are unregulated and are designed to appeal to the health-conscious shoppers, but do not reflect real nutritional content.

Even an "all organic" claim has no meaning without the official USDA Organic seal or European Organic Seal, which is your best assurance of quality.

FORTIFIED FOODS: These are products that proclaim to be more healthful due to their vitamin or mineral content. Unfortunately, foods fortified with "extra" nutrients are nearly always processed, and the nutrients added are typically synthetic; neither of which will promote your health. They definitely won't be as beneficial as high quality food and whole food-based supplements are. Be particularly wary of foods fortified with iron, such as many breakfast cereals, as some of these have been shown to contain actual iron filings, which is not the ideal way to supplement your body with iron.

ADDED SUGAR: The only thing which is worth mentioning on the new Nutrition Label is that it contains a column ''Added Sugars''. The average American consumes 152 pounds/ almost 69 kg of sugar per year [1] (in Europe, it is around 38 kg of sugar per year) and this addiction is killing us slowly but certainly. Although you can have occasionally healthy sugar substitutes such as coconut sugar or raw honey, sugar is sugar and we should keep our consumption of it as low as possible (six teaspoons or 20 grams for women, nine teaspoons or 36 grams for men and three teaspoons of sugar for children). Beware: your glass of orange juice in the morning contains already 5 teaspoons of sugar. These names literally translate SUGAR on a label:

Agave

Brown sugar

Corn sweetener

Corn syrup

Fruit juice concentrates

High fructose corn syrup

Honey

Invert sugar

Malt sugar

Molasses

Raw sugar

Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)

Syrup [2]

Notes on Nutri-Score

France adopted a color coded scheme, called Nutri - Score in 2017. It is a scheme ranging from dark green to dark orange (letters from A to E). Products with an A are the ones with the best nutritional quality, products with an E are the ones with the poorest nutritional quality. However, only 6 food manufacturers and distributors adopted the scheme (Auchan, Leclerc, Intermarche, Fleury Michon, Danone and McCain) as this scheme is voluntary. WHO praised France for adopting this scheme and in my view, it is the most customer-oriented food labeling.

[1]

#nutritionlabels #fat