Things to consider when reading a nutrition label
Tough Love from Jillian
Before I get off on a tangent and talk about the importance of macronutrients or ingredients I have to emphasize the value of understanding how nutrition can affect you mentally.
You may be asking, “What does she mean by that?” Let me explain.
I have been in this game of health and wellness for 20 years and had the liberty to work alongside trainers, athletes, coaches, dietitians, chefs, the list goes on. The one thing I notice when it comes to someone analyzing their nutrition or a nutrition label for that matter is their perspective on it.
If you are trying to lose weight you’re looking at the calories or carbs.
If you are an athlete, you want to make sure there is enough carbs and protein.
If you are a diabetic you are concerned about the sugar and net carbs.
If you are a naturalist, you are reading ingredients.
If you are a competitor you are counting the macros and tracking them.
If you are low sodium you are looking at sodium mg and portions.
If you are not sure, you might just be looking for what you think you should look for which is contrary to your beliefs…
But what is really important for everyone when they read a label?
Quality food, portion sizes, and balancing macros!
Quality food is determined by the ingredient list. Before I was educated on nutrition, I just read carbs and sugar. I also looked at protein. Now the first thing I look at if a food is a packaged item is the ingredient list. Before I even look at the macros I want to ensure the food is quality. Minimally processed and not full of dyes, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and stuff I don’t need. Ingredients share with us how efficiently the food will be recognized and processed when it goes into our bodies. Our bodies thank us when we choose quality foods. Our bodies also won’t experience inflammation if we are consuming quality foods (if you have allergies, individual needs may vary). Regardless if the product is balanced and portioned to only 100 calories, if it’s 100 calories of shit, I don’t want to put that in my body. It’s not truly serving my health. It’s not a quality, nutrient-dense, clean product (clean means no dyes, chemicals, or artificial sweeteners).
Second, the portion size. We all know nowadays that most of the time packaged items portions are way smaller than what we actually consume. So take that into consideration. You may need to do some multiplication when reading labels, like all macros times 2 or even 3. Let’s be realistic, do you really only eat 16 chips? If you are consuming double or triple the portion be prepared to up the total numbers you see on the package.
Third is balance. Balance means a balance of all macronutrients in an item. The proper amount of fats, carbs, and protein. If the processed product is a snack or a side, understand what other foods you are paining it with and take into consideration balancing out the whole meal. If the processed product is a whole meal, make sure it is balanced. If you have specific goals and understand why you should be consuming less of a macronutrient, you will be looking for a different balance.
So let's walk through two separate examples.
A processed meal:
Quality: Can I read the ingredient list and the first 2-5 ingredients are they the main foods in the product. Ex: Chicken, potatoes, broccolini, chicken stock, olive oil, thyme, green onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper.
Portion: Is this portion accurate for me and my goals?
Balance: Are the macronutrients balanced?
An acceptable macronutrient distribution range recommended by USDA for carbohydrates is 45%-65%, protein is 10%-35%, and fats is 20%-35%.
These vary based on age and goals but this is an example.
You don’t want to see a product having a ton of fat and no protein, or a bunch of carbs and no protein, that would not be balanced.
A processed bar:
Quality: Most bars have a lot of ingredients we don’t know, do your best to ensure the first few ingredients are ones you recognize. If the list goes on and on and it consumes dyes, chemicals, or artificial sweeteners, it is not quality food.
Is there 1 or 2 portions in the bar? One of my favorite processed bars are Bobo bars, but they have 2 servings in the container. I have to double all the macros!
So the amount of carbs in the Bobo bar is very high, and it does not contain a good amount of protein. Eaten by itself it is not balanced properly. I try to consume this bar with a protein shake or pre or post-workout when I need to fuel up or replenish from exercise.
Labels are there to inform you. Learn to dissect them for your goals. Also, keep in mind when you are looking at a processed product label, watch out for sneaky marketing. Lots of products will promote low sugar, gluten-free, all-natural, free range, organic...the list goes on. If you don’t know what that means, it doesn't mean it’s better for you. Those labels are there to pull in the uneducated consumer cause buzzwords make you feel a certain way. Hence the importance of understanding your perspective and goals when reading them. Nutrition can affect us mentally, so let’s not let the marketing buzzwords suck us into a purchase when those buzzwords are not relevant to our needs and goals.
Have other questions about nutrition? Let me know so I can cover them in a future blog! Yours,
NEW EPISODE! Owning the Wait Podcast
EP67: Combat your stress with Dr. Karrie Hohn What I have realized when it comes to stress is that the more education I can get around it, the better I can take a proactive role in my own health. The guest that we have on the show today is my doctor, Dr. Karrie Hohn. She has walked me through everything that I've been through with my gut and now we are working to better understand my stress and bring it back under control. I am excited to have her here to talk about stress because I know I am not the only one who struggles with it.