Let’s Check the Facts on Nutrition Facts
First things first, let’s make a rule that we’ll only buy foods with ingredients we can read. Let’s play a game called ‘Go Through The Pantry’ and grab all of the nutrition labels with words we don’t understand. Try googling some of them. Wait for it… cringe. It’s pretty crazy to think that companies can put toilet boil cleaner on potato chips to preserve shelf life, or wood pulp in parmesan cheese. Food products like these are somehow FDA approved. That’s why it’s so important that we are aware of the ingredients we put into our bodies.
Today you could be serving up Enzyme Modified Romano Cheese, Hexametphosphate, Hydrogenated and Modified Corn Starch, and Thiamin Mononitrate. Be forewarned, these are coming directly from a Hamburger Helper and Suddenly Salad ingredients list. And don’t worry, we don’t know what all of them mean, either.
Fats and Calories
You probably noticed that we mentioned ingredients before bringing up calories or fat. Here’s the secret… fats and calories should not be a big red stop sign. Avocados, cashews, whole fat yogurts, salmon, and chicken all have higher calories and fats, but are amazingly good for you. Fact check, how many ingredients do these foods have? One.
Serving size is important with these foods, because 5 pieces of almond butter toast is still excessive, even though the fats are considered healthy. This is where Nutrition Facts can really help you out. The serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts label is a good one to shoot for. One serving typically includes two tablespoons of a nut butter, 1/4th or 1/5th of an avocado, an ounce of nuts, 1 cup of yogurt, or 4 ounces of fish or meat. These servings may seem smaller than you would like (we could easily finish a bag of almonds in one sitting), but the beauty of higher caloric, healthy-fat foods, is that they keep you fuller longer and are more satisfying in smaller portions. To increase your nutrient content even more, pair them with plenty of leafy greens, fresh fruit, and whole grains.
Fiber and Protein
Meet your two new best friends, Fiber and Protein. Look for ingredients that are high in these two sectors. Fiber will keep your tummy feeling full, and assist your body in the digestion process while protein keeps you feeling satisfied and strong.
Protein is found in many animal products such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood. It is also found in smaller amounts in vegetarian items such as tofu, beans, and quinoa. Most nutritionists recommend eating at the minimum half of your bodyweight in grams of protein. For example, if you are 120 pounds, you should eat at least 60 grams of protein. Also keep in mind the more active you are, the more protein you should include.
Fiber is found in fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. Produce is especially great because of their high water content. Water and fiber assist in regulating our digestion, while keeping us feeling satiated.
Here’s the one to keep an eye on. Sugar sneaks itself into everything in the American grocery store. The worst part about sugar is that it is incredibly addictive. Dietitians generally recommend no more than 37.5 grams of added sugar for men and 25 grams of added sugar for women (not including sugars from fruit). We suggest using an app such as MyFitnessPal to help track added sugar and sugars from natural sources.
What about diet sodas, artificial sweeteners, and stevia? The fake sugars in that light greek yogurt and Diet Coke actually cause us to crave the taste of sugar more and studies have proven they actually lead to an increase in weight gain. Once again, Google your favorite “diet” “light” or artificially sweetened foods, and you’ll see an increase in sugar. Food companies even add sugar to light peanut butter, or fat free dairy products to disguise the fact they took out the essential and nourishing fats.
No-Carb-Diets? That was so 2009. Fruits and vegetables have plenty of carbohydrates and are incredibly healthy. Let’s get away from focusing on the number of carbs and instead look at where our carbs are coming from. Carbs from veggies, fruits, and whole grains are ideal. Ezekiel toast, roasted potatoes, whole grain rice, quinoa, zucchini noodles, and squash are the best way to go. Stay away from highly processed and refined carbs in white breads, noodles, desserts, and packaged snacks.
The hardest thing to avoid when grocery shopping is the advertisements that are on the opposite side of the nutrition label. Choosing gluten-free over something else isn’t always the answer. If we take a closer look, many gluten free-products are packed with excess sugar because the gluten has been taken out. Gluten free cookies, cakes, and mac and cheese are still cookies, cake and mac and cheese. Don’t buy a food because it is advertised as organic, low fat, gluten free, sugar free, whatever other crazy claim this product is making. Instead look at the nutrition label and ingredient list! Remember that eating should be about nourishing your body with real food, and if it’s seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Nutrition Label Recommendations
Now that we’ve gone through what to avoid, here are some points on what we should be looking for on nutrition labels.
Look for foods that have:
- Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and calcium: Most Americans don’t get enough of these
- High in fiber and protein
- Low in cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fat
- Low in sugar
- Less then 5 pronounceable and recognizable ingredients
We hope this made your weekly trek to the grocery store a little less overwhelming, and that you can maybe even toss out a couple of items from your pantry that you learned have some nasty chemicals.
When all’s said and done, there is a simple way to avoid quite a bit of the confusion. Make the majority of your grocery shopping purchases ones that do not have nutrition labels. What we’re saying is that ideally, grocery day should include shopping for foods that are fresh and real, not something out of a can, box, or bag.
Real, fresh, delicious, whole foods always win in the end.