Top Five Mistakes You Make While Reading Nutrition Labels of Food (and How to Fix Them)
You might feel tempted to purchase that popular ‘health food’ that claims to provide you only 200 calories for a single meal. Or you might be attracted to those nutritional analysis of food aisles that keep ‘low-calorie’ or ‘sugar-free’ products. When indeed you make them a part of your diet, you feel almost zero benefits that these food products loudly advertise. If you’re trying to lose weight while eating a bag of diet chips, you don’t find the weighing scale tilting in your favor. Do you know the reason behind all this?
It is because you fail to do the nutritional analysis of food items correctly. Many people commit mistakes while reading nutrition labels of food products and get carried away by buzzwords like ‘low-fat’, low-sugar’, and ‘zero cholesterol’.
If you don’t know how to do a nutritional analysis of food items, chances are you’ll be forever spending your money on food items you think are miracle health products. When in reality, they are nothing short of processed, unhealthy junk.
Common Mistakes People Make While Reading Food Labels
In this day and age, packaged and processed foods are freely available. If there’s one thing that dieticians and nutritionists want you to understand, it’s about reading the food labels correctly. Here is the rundown of the five common mistakes you had or will commit while buying readymade food items.
You overlook the serving size.
You equate sugar-free and fat-free products with health.
You think that natural sugar and added sugar are the same.
You almost always think that fruit juices are healthy.
You readily buy well-packaged products.
1. You Overlook the Serving Size
Food nutrition label showing serving size, Credits: Pixabay
Disregarding the serving size of food items is a universal folly. Nutrition labels clearly list the calories that a particular serving size of a product contains. A whole packet of chips that’s around 600 grams might contain around 600 calories. That’s because it has six servings. On the nutrition label, it is written that a serving contains 100 calories. It makes you think that the whole bag of chips contains only 100 calories. Thus, incorrectly reading nutrition labels can make you consume more serving sizes than what is recommended.
Always look for the number of serving sizes on the food label of an item. Then look how much calories a single serving of it contains. Estimate the size of a single serving and eat only that amount. Simple, isn’t it?
2. You Equate Sugar-Free and Fat-Free Products with Health
Sugar less chocolate, Credits: Pixabay
Consuming a sugar-free and low-fat diet is indeed healthy for your overall health. But beware of fat-free or reduced-fat products in the market. These products might contain low amounts of fat but, at the same time, are high in sodium and sugar. Similarly, to compensate for the lack of taste in products marketed as ‘sugar-free,’ an endless amount of additives and preservatives are added.
Products high in additives and preservatives do your health no good, and its best to stay away from them or have them occasionally.
Look at the ingredient list carefully. If fruits or vegetables are listed as the first four ingredients, you can be pretty sure that a particular food item is indeed healthy. Always check for sodium and salt content in packaged food items.
3. You Think That Natural Sugar and Added Sugar Are the Same
Fruit and candy, Credits: Pixabay
There’s a world of difference between natural sugar and added sugar in food. Natural occurring sugars are those found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products. It is not unhealthy and provides you with sustained energy throughout the day. Besides, the natural sugar in these fruits and vegetables comes packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals vital for your overall well being.
On the other hand, added sugar, like corn syrup, table sugar, and honey, are nothing more than empty calories. They provide no nutritional value and instead make your blood sugar levels unstable. They are also higher in calories than natural sugars.
Make sure that on the nutrition label, sugar is not mentioned among the first four ingredients. If it happens to be there, then you need to keep that food item back in its place. On the other hand, if sugar is mentioned among the last few ingredients, then the food item is truly low in sugar and good for you.
4. You Almost Always Think That Fruit Juices Are Healthy
Fruit juice cans, Credits: Pixabay
Fruit juices advertised as ‘made with real fruit’ are a common sight. If the fruit is healthy, you might think, fruit juice may be equally nutritious. But a closer look at the food label will indicate to you that that’s not the case.
In reality, pure fruit extract occupies a very small portion of the fruit juice. The rest is all preservatives, additives, and of course, loads of sugar. So next time a bottle of orange lures you, remember to check the ingredient list before buying it.
Look for those fruit juices which mention ‘100% juice’ on its label. Some juices may contain loads of added sugar, which you can easily find out through terms like corn syrup, sucrose, cane sugar, or high fructose.
5. You Readily Buy Well-Packaged Foods
Various packaged food products, Credits: Pixabay
Who doesn’t like attractively packaged food items advertised as a healthful treat? Well, packaged foods that contain words like ‘all-natural’, ‘organic,’ ‘multi-grain’ are all just marketing gimmicks. Their sole purpose is to fool the customers into buying them. You may get pulled towards low-fat, low-calorie ice cream when indeed, it is just a well-packaged food item not designed to provide you with low-fat health benefits.
There is only one solution to this problem. Read and reread the ingredient list as well as the serving size if you’re monitoring your calories. It will reveal to you everything that commonly escapes an ordinary eye.
Reading nutrition labels becomes essential, especially in the case of packaged food. Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t need to be analyzed thoroughly because they are natural and genuinely healthy. You won’t have to undertake nutritional analysis of avocado if you’re buying them. Food a fact of life nutritional analysis becomes extremely important whenever we step out to buy readymade food products.