How to Read Food Labels

Food Labels: 63% of Americans report that it’s their goal to always eat healthy foods. A surprising 93% say it’s their goal to eat healthy foods some of the time. 

Yet, deciding what is healthy can be confusing. You might have been eating something thinking you’re making a good food choice, only to find out it had lots of fats and sugar later. 

Knowing how to read food labels and understanding the nutrients in food is key to improving what you put in your body. 

However, the box and food label claims can be tricky. Read on to learn more about what you should consider when looking over a food label. 

Front of the Box Claims

You first need to be wary of health claims found on packaged food and the front of the box. 

Don’t fall victim to the word trickery used by a clever marketing team and assume a portion of food is a healthy choice because the box makes some claims. 

Marketers know that if they have claims about a food’s healthy properties on the front of the box, people are prone to believe it even if they stretch the truth. 

Look at the Ingredient List

Food Labels

One of the smartest things you can do is to start by reading the food ingredients listed on the box. The ingredients will be recorded in order from most to least in quantity. 

A good general rule is to consider the first three listed ingredients. You’ll eat most of this if you choose to eat that food. 

You can also look for recognizable food listed in the ingredients.

If the first three ingredients are listed as:

  • Refined grains
  • A type of sugar
  • Hydrogenated oils

This probably means this is not a healthy food option.

Check Serving Size

 Food manufacturers make food appear healthier by messing with the serving size. You might consider the calorie count and nutrients and think the food is okay.

That is until you also look at the actual serving size. Often the serving size is much smaller than the average person consumes, so the calorie and nutritional information are misleading. 

You might read the label for a package of cookies and think well, that isn’t too bad. Then you consider the serving size, and it’s only for a partial cookie. 

Sugar

The amount of sugar in highly processed foods can also make them an unhealthy choice. The tricky thing about sugar is that it is rarely listed on an ingredient list as just “sugar.” Instead, it often hides under various names, making it challenging to identify.

It’s important to watch for all the different terms that might be used to describe sugar in a food product. These can include words like sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, and many others. Awareness of these terms is crucial in making informed choices about sugar intake.

Opting for healthy and natural sweeteners instead of high-fructose corn syrup and other heavily processed sugars makes sense for a healthier diet. Natural sweeteners like stevia, honey, or maple syrup, while still containing sugar, are often considered better options as they can offer additional nutrients and are less processed. However, moderation is key, even with natural sweeteners. By being mindful of the sugar content and types of sweeteners in your food, you can make healthier choices that align with your dietary goals and overall wellness.

Watch for Misleading Terms

Food labeling regulations can create many misconceptions about food. Food manufacturers know this and try to convince you of the goodness in food by using misleading terminology. 

Terms that might mislead include:

  • Low fat
  • Low carb
  • Gluten-free
  • Made with whole grains
  • Fruit flavored

It’s not uncommon to see words like fortified and enriched on food labels to give the impression that the food is better in some way.

Know How to Read Food Labels

Once you know how to read food labels, you’re better able to make smart food choices. Avoiding some tricks of labels on highly processed foods can help you find healthier food options.

If you’re looking for healthier food options, we can help. Check out our products to help you live a healthy life today.