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Nutrition Labels and How to Read Them

Posted by Kristen Ostermiller on
Nutrition Labels and How to Read Them

You’re trying to prioritize your health. You’re doing your best to follow all of the guidelines to eat mostly plants, eat the rainbow, and fuel for a lifetime of health and nourishment. However, it's easy to become distracted by business and marketing tactics. As you walk through the store, you see the following buzzwords that serve as a magnetic force, leading you to think that a food product is healthy: “all-natural”, “non-gmo”, “fresh never frozen”, “all organic”, “no added sugars”, “zero sugar”, “vegan”, “keto”, “low fat”, “gluten free”, the list goes on. While these products may be healthier than others, just because they are "organic", "vegan", or "sugar free" doesn't necessarily mean they're healthy. Marketing teams all over the world are responsible for formulating the perfect packaging and buzz word labeling to attract YOU: The health conscious consumer. Often times, it doesn’t matter if their product is healthy or not – what matters to these companies is whether you buy the product. So, what do you do? 

To avoid falling prey to the marketing tactics on the front of the package, we recommend turning the package over and reading the nutrition label – especially the ingredient list. Often times, there will be an abundance of unnecessary ingredients, including excess salt and refined sugar, as well as preservatives and artificial flavors. 

Where to focus: 

  1. Ingredients: Do you recognize them? Can you pronounce them? Rule of thumb is: if you don't recognize the ingredients, your body likely won't either.  It's also important to look out for and avoid refined sugars and seed-based oils. To learn more about how refined sugars and seed-based oils affect your body and mind, read our 6 Pillars of Nutrition
  2. Fat types: It's best to avoid trans fat, limit saturated fats as much as possible, and focus on consuming essential polyunsaturated fats found in natural fat sources like olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Click here to learn the difference between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats. 
  3. Sodium Content: High sodium content will often trigger cravings and cause bloating, so aim to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Not all salts are created equally – our go-to is pink himalayan salt. 

As you may remember from our previous post, Grocery Shopping 101, we prioritize the outside aisles of the store to purchase fresh produce and bulk foods – that is, whole, unprocessed foods, which don't have have nutrition labels. That said, on a plant-based diet, you won’t need read nutrition labels as often. We call that a win-win! 

Did you know there is a new nutrition label? 

The new label is making it much easier to identify suggested serving sizes and nutrient contents. These requirements were triggered by research that linked diet and chronic disease, indicating the need to make consumers more informed about nutritional information. 

While reading nutrition labels is important – ultimately, focusing on the quality of the food you're eating is what will take your relationship with food from that of a “diet” to a lifestyle. So, when considering which packaged goods to purchase, remember to prioritize the ingredients, stay away from unnecessary refined sugars and salts, and learn the difference between good and bad fats. By staying informed, you're already on your way to better health! 

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