By: Kayla Adams
Have you started a new diet and thought to yourself, “I’m really going to tackle weight loss this time. I’m going to do what it takes!” and you do exactly that—in good faith? You begin limiting your portion sizes, exercising, and you even start reading nutrition labels…wait. Not so fast! Nutrition labels, as straight-forward as they may seem, can be misleading and deter your progress towards your goals if not read and understood properly. Are these nutrition label mistakes getting in your way?
Proper understanding of nutrition labels is crucial in staying on track with eating properly for weight loss, health, and nutrition. The International Journal of Obesity asserts that nutrition labels on food packaging offers one of the best ways to broadcast the nutrition information of the foods we consume. Let’s examine 5 common nutrition label mistakes that could potentially derail you on your road to a healthier, happier you.
You don’t look at serving sizes
Many of us have looked at our favorite sweet treat and been surprised at how low the sugar contents or calories are. When this happens, we’ve often neglected to notice that the bag of potato chips actually has three servings and you’ve only accounted for 1 serving. Did you only eat 1 serving or did you eat half the bag? Serving sizes can be surprisingly small, so be sure to consider how many servings you’ve consumed when you examine just how many calories, sugars, and sodium are in your foods.
You overlook added sugars
Excess sugar consumption will derail you from your fitness goals and could discourage you from achieving the results you’re looking for. The American Heart Association claims that “added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity.” Although these sugars make our foods much sweeter and tastier, they can have long-term negative effects on our health.
A few culprits for added sugars to look out for are soft drinks, candy, cookies, and ice cream. How do you know what to look for? High-fructose corn syrup, lactose, and anhydrous dextrose are a couple of FDA recognized aliases for added sugars. These ingredients are most prominent in processed foods and sweets.
You only read the front of the package
We’ve all done it. You’ll see “natural” or “non-GMO” on the front of the label which will prompt you to think the product is safe and in-line with your new lifestyle. No need to read the nutrition label, right? Wrong! According to the FDA, the term natural does not address production methods or address food processing or manufacturing methods. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate the label “natural”, which leaves a lot of wiggle-room for manufacturers. If you really want to know what you’re putting into your belly, then never take front-label claims to heart without first reading the nutrition label in its entirety
You disregard sodium content
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology claims that the average American consumes enough salt each day to cause heart damage. The FDA recommends a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, while the study found that half the participants consumed at least 3,730 milligrams each day. Chances are, you could be in that large population of individuals that eat far too much sodium. One of my favorite snacks contains 1920 mg of sodium per serving, this alone leaves me only 380 milligrams shy of the FDA’s daily recommendation. This number is very easy to achieve if you fail to pay attention to the sodium content in your foods and adjust your consumption accordingly. If you need a few tips, check out our post on reducing sodium here!
You focus too heavily on calories from fat
Fats come in many forms—some helpful, others harmful to your weight management goals. Be sure to read the nutrition label to differentiate what fats are found in your foods.
Saturated fat most commonly comes from red meat and dairy. It’s advised to keep a close watch on saturated fats due to a risk factor for heart disease. Trans fat serves the purpose of making foods more shelf stable and easier to cook—also detrimental to your heart health. Beware! Trans fat has been found to increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol.
Well, what fats are healthy? Look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They don’t carry the risk for heart disease and are found in high fat, plant-based foods like avocado, nuts, salmon, and tuna. Omega-3 and omega-6 are also helpful, as they help to regulate our immune systems.
There you have it! Implementing these practices to avoid these 5 nutrition label mistakes will help you on your journey to good health and an overall better you!