How often do you see the words “High in Protein”, “Source of Protein”, or “Less Carbs”, “Low fat”, “No Added Sugar”, “All Natural”? I could go on, and on.
So how do you, without a degree in nutrition, unravel the mystery and know just what the facts are?
I have put together a few simple guidelines to help you know what to look for in your food.
Food labels or “Nutrition Information” are a legal requirement on most packaged foods in Australia. They provide important information about the nutrient component in food and are often listed next to the ingredients.
The most common nutrients you will find listed are Protein, Carbohydrates (then the portion of which are from sugar), Fats (plus the portion of which are from saturated fats), and Total Energy usually expressed in Kilojoules (kj). Depending on the type of food or which angle the marketing team are taking you may also see the amount of Fibre, common vitamins or minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium or Vitamin C..and so forth.
When it comes to the ingredient listing the first item appearing on the list is the main ingredient component followed by the second, and third, until the last item on the list which is the smallest ingredient component of the product.
You might be surprised at just how “unjuicy” some of those fruit juices on the shelf really are. There is a particular common brand that has a good reputation for juice but a cleverly marketed “drink” by them has cane sugar listed as the third ingredient…. Be careful to note the difference.
Several breads and cereals promote “High Protein” or “High Fibre” varieties but what does that actually mean? It could simply mean that it is higher in protein or fibre than the other offerings from the brand. In Australia there is legislation in place to ensure manufacturers are not making false claims about food*
It pays to take the time to practice reading these labels and familiarising yourself with the ingredients.
Of course where possible you should eat as many non-processed (packaged) foods. Sometimes budget & time constraints can make that harder to do so make sure you are informed, and making the best choices. There are important instances where you might need to include dairy and cereals in your diet, so having knowledge of exactly what those products contain will help to ensure you are receiving the best nutrition, and meeting your goals.
For more nutritional guidance talk to a dietitian, or a good personal trainer who can help you get started. They will also have networks with other health professionals to ensure you are doing the best you can for your health.
Yours in fitness,