"The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life." - Plato
What to do - Reading Food Labels for Health
- Find the food label on the food package. It's probably on the back, and it will have "Nutritional Facts" and an ingredients list.
- Look at the ingredients list. The shorter the list, the better. If there is just one ingredient, like "dried kidney beans" or "brown rice", you're safe - it's a whole food. If all the ingredients are whole foods like "tomatoes, eggplant, basil, olive oil" (maybe a spaghetti sauce?), then that is fine. If there is a really long list, and/or there are odd items you can't pronounce and don't recognize, that is bad. Throw it out. Take a look at the Cheddar Cheese Cracker Combos bag at the top. Your sensors should go off immediately because it has a long list of ingredients.
- Do you recognize everything on the ingredients list? Is it a food or are there some chemically things that you don't recognize? If there are any of those weird items, put it back or throw it away! For example, the Combos bag includes unpronouncable items like hydrogenated oil, maltodextrin, sodium acid pyrophosphate, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrolyzed corn syrup. If you don't know what these chemicals are, do you want to eat them? Trust me, you don't. They're bad for you.
- Now look at the order in which the ingredients are listed. They are listed from the most to the least. If one of the first ingredients is sugar, you are eating mostly sugar. This is bad. If it's tomatoes, there are more tomatoes than anything else in that food. That can be good, depending on what else is on the list.
- Let's say the food passed your ingredients screen. Take a look at the "Nutrition Facts". How nutritious is it? The first few things are those you want to limit since you get enough of them anyway. Moderate your fats and minimize the saturated fat grams, trans fats and cholesterol. Trans fats should be 0. Sodium should be as low as possible. The more vitamins, calcium, protein, and fiber it has, the better.
- The "Daily Value" percentage informs you what percent of your daily nutritional needs are provided by the food. Look at the Combos. They are a disaster. The only real nutritional value it contains are fat, carbs and sodium, and you get enough of that anyway. These are empty calories - you're eating 240 calories and getting no notable nutrition out of it. If you are watching your weight, this is a disaster.
- Now look at the number of servings. The Nutrition Facts are only for one serving. If there is more than one serving in the bag, you have to factor it in. For example, if there are two servings in a bag and you eat the whole bag, you've eaten double the calories and Nutrition Facts. This Combos bag has one serving, so you don't need to recalculate the nutrition.