What the secret sauce to eating healthy?
This is something that I get asked a lot. My reply typically consists on first, understanding what works for your body and lifestyle. And a close second, making most of your meals fresh and home cooked.
But I also know that life happens. We don’t always have the time to cook and we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to make the best decision available at the moment. Even if it comes in a package. Here’s the thing, you can actually find healthier alternatives just by knowing what to look for in a food label. And that’s what I want to focus on in this post. I want to empower you to make the best decisions when eating something that comes in a package. Learning what to look for in the food label.
First thing’s first, here’s why I could give less about calories when I check a food label.
Calories are the sum of the energy provided from carbs, protein, and fat. One gram of carbs and protein will give you 4 calories, while one gram of fat will give you 9 calories. With me so far? So if you only look at calories, a lollipop might seem like a better alternative than eating an avocado. And by now we know that that’s really not the case. Lollipops will have less calories because it’s mainly sugar (carbs), flavoring, and coloring. An avocado on the other hand, is rich protein, carbs, and fat (loving some healthy fats!). See what I mean?
So if I rarely pay attention to calories, what do I look for in the food label?
The first thing your eyes should land on is the list of ingredients. Here is where you can really learn what was added to your food and what you are putting into your body.
When you are checking out the list of ingredients, pay attention to the following:
1.Can you understand the ingredients or does it sound like a science experiment?
2.Which ingredients come first? The ingredients appear in order of highest amount present in product to the least. For example, if the list of ingredients of a snack bar starts with oats, you know that that’s the ingredient found in highest quantity.
3.How long is the list? For this Nutrinut, I like to keep my list of ingredients on the shorter end and sans additives.
4.Are there any artificial or natural flavor and coloring? If so, that’s also something you want to be mindful about.
Those are my main tips for what to look for in the list of ingredients. Although this is where my focus is mainly, I also check a few other things like the amount of sugar that is in the product as well as if it’s a good source of fiber. We can definitely talk more about fiber and gut health on another post. For now, just remember that it’s really important to have enough fiber in the day not only to stay regular but also to maintain your gut flora happy! We now know that keeping a healthy gut flora is linked to many other benefits in the body including mood, brain, inflammation, and even weight!
And just another thing, claims like “all natural” may make us feel like we are making the best choices. But that’s not always the case. Here’s a little fun fact. There’s not much of an official definition or regulation over the term “natural”. So it could very well be just another marketing strategy to make us feel like it’s a healthy choice.
Also, when making decisions don’t only focus on: gluten free, vegan, organic, keto, paleo. This doesn’t mean that the food in that package will be healthy and good for you.
Use what I shared to empower yourself to make the right decisions for your body. Which ingredients you are OK with having inside of your body and will help you thrive in your day-to-day?