Know The Contents Before You Eat It!
Stop! Before you eat your Lunchables or down the contents of your juice box, do you know what’s in there? Preservatives? A high fat content? Tons of calories? Lots of sugar? There’s an easy way to find out what you’re really
swallowing: Read the Nutrition Facts label on every manufactured-food package. The label contains detailed nutritional information about the food. But you don’t have to read all of it, says Kathy McManus, director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. If you’re trying to slim down or stay healthy, skip right to these four parts of the label.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Knowing the serving size of a food allows you to compare similar products easily. That will help you quickly choose the one that’s lower in calories and total fat, for example.
WHAT TO DO: Check the total number of servings on packages. Even small containers can contain multiple servings.
* imprecise serving sizes, such as “about 3” servings. To avoid being tricked into thinking that you’re eating less than you really are, round up when you calculate 2calories.
* packaged rice and pasta dishes and pancake mixes. They often require the addition of other ingredients, such as oil, butter, milk, or eggs. Check the serving size and the total calories under the “as prepared” heading.
* very small packages. Although they may look as if they serve one person, most packaged snacks (chips, nuts, trail mix) contain multiple servings. Read carefully and do the math.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Fat is calorie-dense. That means you get a lot of energy for just a little volume. All fats are equal calorically, but not all are the same when it comes to health.
WHAT TO DO: Choose products with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, nuts, avocados, olives, and olive oil) over products with trans fats and saturated fats. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit your total fat intake to less than 30 percent of your daily calories.
* saturated fats. These are found mostly in meat and whole-milk dairy products. You should get less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.
* trans fats. These are frequently found in baked goods and snacks. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and cancer.
* claims such as
“33 percent less fat” or “80 percent lean.” To determine whether a food is truly low in
fat, check the number of fat grams per serving.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Fiber is a
substance found only in plants, such as fruits and vegetables and legumes. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It is also your friend if you’re trying to lose weight. High-fiber foods are bulkier and make you feel fuller on fewer calories.
WHAT TO DO: Select foods with a high fiber content–at least 2 grams per serving, if possible. A food that is higher in fiber is usually lower in calories. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber every day.
* the word enriched. It’s usually a sign that a food, such as bread or pasta, is low in fiber because it was made with processed white flour. That means the nutrients have been stripped out and replaced synthetically.
* fiber claims on other parts of the food package. The only way to be sure that a food is high in fiber is to check the fiber content on the Nutrition Facts label.
(4) Ingredients List
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: A quick glance at the
ingredients list will help you pick foods that provide the most nutritional bang for your caloric buck.
WHAT TO DO: Choose foods with shorter ingredients lists. The more ingredients a product has, the more likely it is to be higher in calories.
* added sugars. High-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener, is a cheap form of sugar found in everything from juices and flavored yogurts to nutrition bars. Sugar also travels under the names honey, molasses, evaporated cane juice, fruit-juice concentrate, and malt.
* the word hydrogenated. It’s a fancy name for trans fats. When it comes to food, labels count. Know what’s on your label and choose your lunchtime options wisely.