How to Read Nutrition Labels

So reading nutrition labels can be scary, its ok to admit it. Half the time all I see when I pick up a product I have never heard of it looks like “kjsdkfbsjdfbosb” is in it… sometimes I can pick out what I think that could possibly be and other times I don’t even try because its obviously something insane!

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Here are some of the things that are a basic that I think everyone should know just in general but also know to kind of look out for when purchasing foods for themselves and family. I’m going to give your the basics of what everything means as well! =)

** Basic things I check is first what’s in it? How many ingredients are in it ? Carbs, protein, sugar and then calories… ***

  1. What’s the serving size? (go look at the serving size of your saltines, I bet its around 3-4 crackers. Do you eat that many.. honestly? No you eat like 10. Been there done that! Make sure you look at the serving size, say the labels says 4 crackers and that there are 3g sugar in 2 crackers (that means there are 15 g sugar in those 10 crackers). This goes for calories and everything else too, not just sugar. Keeps you eating the right proportions is knowing the serving sizes to begin with! =)
  2. Ingredients: They are labeled in order of quantity and volume, meaning that if sugar is like the second thing on the list don’t bring it home! The higher up whatever ingredient is in the list, the more the product contains of it and the lower the ingredient on the list the least of it. Watch out of hidden words like “dextrose, glucose High fructose Corn Syrup, Syrups, Aspartame.” These are still sugars you want to avoid. They put these ingredients as different names in hope of people not knowing what they are so they will buy more of it. Even when looking at the actual grams of sugar it contains, they don’t split it up and say where the sugar is coming from (like fructose comes naturally through fruit) So be sure to look at the actual ingredient list and know where your “sugar” form is coming from. Not all sugars are bad, its the syrups and fake sugars to watch out for!
  3. Calorie Count- How many calories does it contain per serving? This is where people can get confused when it comes to nutrition. Usually people just look and see if it contains a lot of calories or not, not even looking at the nutrients. In example something that contains a high amount of calories doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad food- it may contain a lot of nutrients. So don’t just look and see that it has 400 calories and then put it back onto the shelf, look and see where those calories may be coming from. Also don’t go after every food you can find that has little to no calories either. Just because it has 0 calories doesn’t mean its a healthy for you option. There are lots of things (unless its like fruits and veggies) contain 0 calories that have a million ingredients and fake sugar galore!!! Quality Vs. Quantity is a good example here.
  4. Where are your Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients at? – (DV) Daily Value is considered ideal and most sufficient when it comes to a basic diet. If it contains anywhere from 10-15% of your DV, its usually a better choice! The higher the better! You need all those nutrients to sustain energy, and keep your metabolism up and running good!!
  5. Sodium -When you’ve had too much sodium it raises your blood pressure. Also some foods have more than 3,000 milligrams alone in one serving when your daily amount is 2,300 (which I still think is too high personally- I would shoot for no more than 1500 ). The way I look at it too, the more sodium usually means its highly processed and should ideally stay away from. Things like frozen premade dinners have around 800 or more….. where as a green bell pepper has 4mg pepper.
  6. Carbohydrate- Here’s something tricky when reading carbohydrate on the label, it also includes complex carbs, fiber and sugar… I know how annoying?! So ideally shot for around 150-300 carbs a day at MOST! (keep in mind, depending on your level of physical activity could very with this and what kind of a diet your on as well. ) Some people go to extremes and do very low carb diets (which I’m not a huge fan of- because your body uses carbs as fuel) *note: I mean you should eat “good carbs and not “bad carbs” when I state that you should eat them. Some examples of good carbs include: Fruit, Veggies, 100% Whole Grains.. Bad carbs include: Refined grains and sweets with way too much sugar or fake sugar.
  7. Protein –  Depends on if your trying to build muscle, but usually shoot for around 40-50g a day. 35% of your calories should come from a clean protein source.
  8. What Kinds of Fats? – There are many types of fat and not all fat is bad for you. Your body needs fat to survive and function properly. The ideal type of fat is (Unsaturated fat), your usually clear if it doesn’t contain too much and/or (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats) These come from oils and other foods like olives, avocado, nuts, seeds and natural butter spreads (like almond butter or peanut butter) and fish . The ones you want to stay away from are the… (trans fat and saturated fats) If your food contains lots of this type of fat, just put it back and don’t even try to justify it. Its not healthy and not worth it! This usually comes from animal sources whether that be from the animal meat itself or something that comes from the animal, like dairy or eggs.
  9. Fiber- Always look for high fiber in anything, not if your eating enough veggies and fruits (which you know if you are because you will be eating them all the time..right?! ) then you don’t really need to worry about getting enough fiber, but always good to look for (shoot fore 3g or more)
  10. Sugar- The lower the better, but make sure your making sure there is “fake sugar” in it because that even worse! Shoot for natural sugars from things like fruit, veggies and some whole grains rather than the sugars in pre-packaged and processed foods. Your tummy will thank you! Try not to consume more than 30g sugars a day (Which is still kinda high)

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Protein Powder! (How to Pick the Best One)

protein 3  So.. Protein powders are everywhere. Its most commonly known to be a building block for building long, lean muscles but they have all different kinds out there. Ones made specially for men and women, ones geared toward building muscle, meal replacements, nutrition, and ones for people with food intolerances. So how do you know which one to buy? Realistically to build muscle or even loose body fat you need to ideally keep protein intake high. Whether your consuming foods that are naturally high in protein (i.e. meats, dairy, eggs and even things like potatoes and rice) or your getting a lot of your protein from powders the good thing is that your getting a good amount and from a good source. Here are some things to look for when purchasing protein powders:

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  • Is it a “Protein Powder” or is it a “Mass Grainer” – a Mass Grainer is a protein powder that also contains carbs, fats and protein. Whereas, Protein Powders are just strictly protein. And even though you want those nutrients in your diet, if you’re just shooting for more protein than the powders are the way to go that way you avoid unwanted calories and any weight gain. If your looking for more of a meal replacement or to add weight…the Mass Grainer is a way to go.

When picking out a powder look for:

  • High Protein (around 20-30 or more grams)
  • Low Carb – (no more than 5 grams)
  • Low Fat – (No more than 5 grams)
  • Shoot for the lowest sugar you can find.
  • Look for Quality- Always look at the label when picking out a protein and look for ones with the fewest amount of ingredients (this ideally goes for any food too)  Also look for ones with natural ingredients too. . . if you cant pronounce it… its probably not the best bet… just saying.
  • Don’t get suckered in – Don’t believe everything it says on the bottle. Do your own research. Just because one says “Build maximum Muscle with this!” doesn’t mean its the one to choose. Companies like to put things on products so you buy them (this also goes for foods). Look at the brand, its it one that’s popular? What are they known for ? How reliable are they? Have you had success with any of their other products? Compare ingredients to another Protein powder. And look at the companies track record, how long have they been in business? Do they have good reviews?
  • Concentrate, Isolate or casein. – Concentrate is absorbed at a slower pace. This type is good to have in between meals. Isolate- Whey)  Is pretty much absorbed right away, good for right after a workout. Casein – takes longer to digest and has a constant flow of amino acids.

Some of the most popular include:

Syntha- 6

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Myotein

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Sunwarrior (Vegan)

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Gold Standard Whey

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Vega Protein (Vegan)

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Zero Carb Isopure

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Jay Robb ( I like the egg white kind- but he has a whey one too)

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BSN True-Mass

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Plant Fusion (Vegan)

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* If ya’ll find another good one, feel free to add on comments below. =)