Take a moment and think about the food you ate today….. Which items had a food label and which items did not?
If we were to jot down all the food we ate today we might formulate a hypothesis which states that the healthier the food item is, the less likely it is to require a food label.
To be clear….real food should not require a food label. There are a few exceptions, like bacon, and canned coconut milk, but these items are more of the exception than the rule. The healthiest foods that come to mind are fruits, vegetables, fresh poultry, beef, and fish, all of which do not require a food label.
In a perfect world we would only eat fresh foods and follow a Paleo diet, which we all know I am in love with! The truth is that I am not a perfect Paleoite. I am not part of the die hard group, but don’t disagree that going 100% Paleo yields the greatest results. I started off in the hardcore camp, and have experienced the amazing feeling it brings.
The Paleo diet is far from rigid, but everyday life can throw a wrench into your best laid food plans. When I started my transformation I also vowed that I would never turn down a celebratory drink, or a piece of cake because of my diet regime. I just didn’t want to be that guy!..and it turned out alright for me.
Seeing as we inevitably have to consume fake food from time to time, or all the time depending on your eating patterns, how do we make the best of it?
Consider Total Calories
The biggest industry trick and the easiest to identify is the masking of the total number of calories in an item. Companies are required to provide information based on average serving size, not the total contents of the container. I mean when was the last time anybody ate 17 chips?
So if a 500 mil carton of milk has a calorie reading of 100 for a 250 mil serving, then the total contents of the carton in fact has 200 calories. This may seem obvious, but people still fall for this trick!
Tip: Make sure to adjust the total calorie content for the entire portion you consume.
Grams of Carbohydrates
The average person with average caloric needs does not require more than 150 grams of carbohydrates in a day. In fact people who are overweight and consume more than 150 grams of carbs consistently will have a heck of time losing weight.
Tip: When you are reading the food label, keep in mind that if you are trying to lose weight keeping grams of carbs under 100 per day will melt the pounds away.
Here are some common carb totals for popular foods
Can of Coke – 39 grams
Pizza pocket – 50 grams Yikes
Small bag of potato chips – 26 grams
Total Sodium Content
It is an understatement to say that I have a dislike for the daily recommended nutritional values provided by most national governments, but the fact that they require food manufactures to publish the contents of sodium as a percentage of daily recommended intake serves as a valuable tool.
Basically, sodium is salt, salt makes us retain water. Too much sodium causes a disruption of the digestive process, and wreaks havoc on fat loss. There is a great article about the problems with sodium written by a friend of mine named Srdjan at Bloomtofit.com. You can find it here.
Tip: If any one item has more than 10% of the daily recommended value of sodium, avoid it!
It is easy to label sugar as the bad guy because it is just that. I love the occasional helping of ice cream as much as the next person, but the effects of continuously consuming excess sugar leaves our body no choice but to make us fat and sick! Again Srdjan at Bloomtofit.com has written a comprehensive article about why sugar is so bad, and can be found here.
An important consideration is that sugar values as indicated on food labels actually refer to added sugar (that which is not naturally occurring). In addition sugar and carbohydrates react the same way in the digestive process by essentially being treated as glucose. This means both carbs and sugar have the ability to raise blood sugar and therefore insulin levels and should be prescribed in a similar manner.
Tip : Since sugar and carbs have similar effects on our body we need to keep both of these values low. If you want to lose weight the best guideline is to keep the combined grams of sugar and carbs under 150 total. That means keep daily consumption of sugar under 50gs!
What About Fat?
If we can steer clear of trans fats and follow the rest of the advice above, we will have mastered the art of reading food labels enough to reach our goals!