A Crash Course on Label Reading

By Sara Scheler

September 18, 2013

Organic,All-Natural,Lower Sodium,No HFCS, Whole Grain,High Fiber, No Artificial Anything…

Grocery shopping can be very overwhelming when manufacturers plaster their boxes with nutrition claims and advertisements that make almost every product seem healthy.

As a consumer, it is important to look past the ads and find out what a product is made of before you purchase it.

Serving Size: Pay close attention to the serving size of what you’re about to consume. Sometimes products seem healthy or low in calorie because their serving sizes are small.

Fats: Choose heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats over damaging saturated and trans fats, which can increase bad cholesterol and heart attack risks (Mayo Clinic). For a 2,000 calorie diet, try to keep saturated fat intake at or below 22 grams per day (USDA).

Sodium: Sodium can contribute to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease (Nutrition Action). The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends a daily sodium intake of between 1,500 and 2,300 mg a day. Watch for high sodium levels in all foods, especially processed meats such as bacon and lunch meat, packaged snacks, prepared meals and soups.

Sugar: Keeping your sugar consumption low can fend off excess weight gain and keep your body healthy. Bonnie Liebman, M.S., suggests women should consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day,; men no more than 38 grams. Make sure you note the difference between added sugars and naturally-occurring sugars, such as those in plain yogurt, fruits and milk. These natural sugars do not count towards your daily sugar intake. Look for added sugars under names like these: high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, apple juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, molasses and confectioner’s sugar (Nutrition Action).

The next time you are at the grocery store, don’t rely on advertising to judge the health of a product. Flip the box around and check out the ingredient list and the nutrition facts—they are there to help and it is your right as a consumer to know what you are about to consume.