What should people be paying attention to on the nutrition labels on foods? The ingredient list portion of the food label is far more important then the nutrition facts portion of the food label. Processed ingredients including red, yellow, and blue dyes, hydrogenated oils (trans fatty acids), high fructose corn syrup, are all located on the ingredient list, NOT under the nutrition facts label. Foods with long ingredient list are less healthy due to the amount of preservatives, these types of foods are typically frozen foods, snacks, or anything found in a box or a bag. It is best to purchase foods that do not have food labels like fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, beef, poultry, eggs, etc.
What macro and micronutrients are most important?
Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber and fluids, these are needed in larger quantities and recommended ratios optimal for health and weight management. It is best to track daily food intake with a food diary and strive to hit macronutrient percentages over the course of the day. Listed are optimal ranges of macronutrients.
25-35grams of fiber per day
Half of your body weight in ounces of plain water per day
40-50% heart healthy fats
Micronutrients are nutrients that are needed in smaller quantities, mainly vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are mostly found in whole unprocessed foods including vegetables, fruits, and quality animal proteins. Some foods like bread, cereal and dairy products are fortified with micronutrients but these are not the best sources. Consume the optimal 9-11 servings of vegetables and some fruits daily to ensure that micronutrients needs are met.
What ingredients should be avoided?
- Avoid yellow, blue or red dyes
- High fructose corn syrup or any added sugar or syrups
- Hydrogenated oils
- Magnesium stearate (or stearic acid) is linked to increased risk for cancer and immune system suppression.
- Monosodium Glutamate(MSG) disguised as “natural flavors. Disrupts gut flora and suppresses immune system.
- Carnauba wax is used in car wax and shoe polish (used for texture)
- Titanium dioxide is a carcinogen
What should we know about serving sizes?
This is a very misleading aspect of the food label, companies may offer a portion that seems like a serving size and if you read the label carefully it may Actually be 2-4 servings which multiplies the nutrition facts doubling the sugar, fat, calorie and sodium content. Common serving size deceptions include pints of ice cream, sports drinks, juice bottles, cakes, etc.
A good rule of thumb is if the food is packaged it is not as healthy as the homemade or unprocessed option.