Reading Your Nutrition Labels

pexels-photo-811108.jpegDo you pay attention to flashing road signs when you’re behind the wheel? How about directions for when you’re putting together a new product? The food we choose to put into our bodies is one of the most important aspects of our lives as food is our fuel! Why would we be neglecting or skimming over the “directions” or “warning labels”?

Know what you are eating

My #1 rule when it comes to food: KNOW WHAT YOU ARE EATING! If you pick up, for example, a box of delicious Cinnamon Toast Crunch because you got the craving (which is totally acceptable, everyone does!), read the label. Calories aside, it looks pretty harmless, right? This is where the next rule comes into play…

Read the INGREDIENTS along with nutrition content

Many people skim over an ingredient list because they mentally say “Oh this is in my calorie limit!” or “The protein to carbohydrate ratio is in my target range for my specific goals!” but there could be more lurking in products than our eye is trained to see.

Going back to my example of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, everything seems pretty straight forward…until about the 8th ingredient. Maltodextrin is casually hiding on that label. What is Maltodextrin? Simply put, it is a thickener put into many processed foods that is not only artificial but can also spike blood sugar and suppress healthy probiotic development in the gut. There is a number of body builders who will consume Maltodextrin post workout to restore the body’s stored energy (glycogen) through simple carbs (AKA the type you should normally avoid).

Bottom line? Maltodextrin by no means will kill you, but you should avoid it when you’re trying to maintain your health goals.

Another example of a secret ingredient hiding on this label is BHT – a preservative added for freshness. While humans normally do not consume enough of this for it to be a concern, BHT was classified as a carcinogen by the FDA and should ultimately be avoided. Besides, if you’re trying to eat right, why would you want to consume anything artificial and full of preservatives?

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So what should I look for on my labels?

My rule of thumb is simple: If I cannot pronounce an ingredient, I will not eat it! There are some ingredients out there that sound a little intimidating but are actually okay. An example (still from our cereal label) would be Lecithin. Lecithin is an essential fat needed for cell production in the body – it can also be found in foods like soy or egg yolks.

If you even have a doubt for a second, like decision in this world, you probably shouldn’t go for it. It’s like the common “IS this an appropriate outfit to wear to work?” …If you have to think about it, give it a solid no.

Improving your diet is a constant process of trial and error – if something works for you, stick to it! If you’re not really feeling it, try something new. 🙂

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