Losing fat has just as much to do with what you put in your belly as all the workouts you’re doing to flatten it. Which is why more people are paying closer attention to the quality of food they’re consuming. And so should you.
Healthy shopping seems like it should be pretty simple, right? Load your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good sources of protein and fat. Boom! You’re done.
If only it were that easy. Pick up a can or bag of anything in your pantry, and take a glance at the nutrition label on the back. What’s the difference between calories and calories for fat? Is sodium good or bad? Should you really be concerned about the Total Carbohydrate count? Is there enough dietary fiber — or too much? What the heck are Daily Values anyway? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one confused.
You don’t need a masters in nutrition science to decipher food labels. Here’s a simple cheat sheet to help you make the healthier choices in the supermarket aisles, without making your head explode.
Serving Sizes: That bag of chips you inhale in two seconds may actually be two servings, not one. By paying attention to serving sizes of your packaged food, you’ll know exactly how much you’re consuming.
Calories: Food labels show you the total calories per serving from all sources — fats, carbs, and protein. Most now also show you the calories just from fat. Calories from “bad” fats like trans-fats and carbohydrates can result in weight gain. Calories from good fats rich in omega-3s such as nuts, avocados and olive oil rich, however, can help you feel fuller (so you snack less) while boosting your health and energy. But that’s for another post.
Sodium: Our bodies do need sodium (salt), but in moderation. Consuming too much sodium can increase chances or hypertension, kidney and heart disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises a salt intake of 2,300 mg a day for those without health risk factors.
Carbohydrates: Carbs (as they’re affectionately called) include sugars, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. A quality carbohydrate should have at least 1/6 of its weight in fiber — for instance, 20 grams of carbohydrates should have around 3-4 grams of fiber. Try to avoid carbohydrates with zero fiber.
Sugars: Sugars include fructose that naturally occurs in fruit as well as lactose in dairy products — not just sucrose (table sugar). Sugars are basically carbohydrates that contribute empty calories, meaning you don’t get a lot of returns from eating them. Look carefully at the sugar content in food labels; it’s often surprisingly high and often time hidden as high fructose corn syrup, etc..
Protein: Protein is key for muscle, cell, organ and gland function, growth, and repair. As long as the other items on the food label are OK, you shouldn’t be too concerned with a high protein count. However, you will probably do well to keep your protein intake around 0.8g to 1g of protein per pound of lean mass.
Nutrients: Good nutrients to look for include fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.
Daily Values: Food labels include the % of Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients for a typical 2,000-calorie daily diet. If the food you’re about to purchase has a lot of items on the label under 5% of the Daily Value, consume with caution. If the labels show 20% or more of Daily Values for its nutritional content, you’re probably good to go.
Ingredients: After you check out the nutrition label, look at the actual ingredients. The ingredient listed first is the most prevalent in the product. So if the first ingredient reads “sugar,” you might want to put it back. The ingredient list can also help you find hidden ingredients, like added sugars and trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), you’re trying to avoid. Choose food items that have very few processed ingredients or whose ingredients you actually recognize as real food.
Still confused? That’s OK, we’re here to help. At 3Q Fitness CrossFit Garland, we offer nutritional coaching and guidance to ease your transition to healthy eating habits you can sustain for life. It’s one of the reasons our members see such incredible results. Contact us today at 972-494-2545 to learn more or to get started https://crossfitgarland.com/getting-started/