Many food labels are quite confusing: numbers, colours, percentages, along with kcal and kj are amongst the data we have to decipher when we decide what to eat. Today, Free Spirit’s Trainer, Jessica Yarnold, explains how you can make the healthiest choices possible using an easy formula, and what you should really be looking at on a label.
While the top of the label (and its robust percentage of daily value) may be attractive, they are not the most important place to start when reading a label. Instead, here is what I would encourage you to focus on:
1. The ingredients list
This gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down to the packaged food based on your own criteria.
a. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity;
b. Look for complicated chemical names that suggest preservatives, artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners (you want to avoid these as much as possible).
2. Check the serving size
The serving size is often designed to make the rest of the nutritional facts on the box look reasonable to the consumer. A usual serving of biscuits may be three, but that is 270 calories and 39 grams of carbohydrates. 90 calories looks much better so the serving size is sneakily marked as ONE biscuit!
3. Consider the % of your daily intake of nutrients
Most of your micronutrients should be coming from the kind of food which do not need a nutrition facts box: the unprocessed kind.
This is also called “whole food” because the ingredient list is singular eg. a bag of apples with a label would just say – ingredients: apples).
Health claims and what they mean
Calorie Free – 40 calories or less
Sugar free – less than 0.5 grams of sugar
Reduced sugar – at least 25% less sugar
Low fat – 3 grams or less of fat
Salt free – less than 5mg of salt
Low sodium – 140mg of sodium or less
Good source of fiber – more than 2.5 grams of fiber
4. Food Labels worth looking out for!
Here are some labels to look out for when looking to purchase items that have been grown, raised or harvested in a way that benefits the welfare of both animals and the environment.
The RSPCA are dedicated to making sure that all industry criteria is reached to support the welfare of animals.
The Red Tractor scheme, run by Assured Food Standards, certifies the food was produced in Britain and to certain quality standards for food safety, hygiene, and the environment, and reflects standard industry practice in the UK.
The Lion Mark
The Lion Mark appears on eggs and ensures they meet food safety criteria. However the standard generally only ensures minimum legislative requirements for animal welfare, so permits the use of ‘enriched cages’ for hens as well as barn and free-range systems. It guarantees the eggs were laid in Britain.
Taking the time to look at labels differently; not for their fat and carbohydrate content, but for all the processed ingredients (sugar being the worst of all) will help you to live a healthier lifestyle, feel better in yourself and lose weight.
Choosing to cook from fresh and using fresh ingredients is always the best option for achieving and maintaining a fit and healthy body. Here are some of my recent creations… all made from scratch!
For more inspiration, please follow me on instagram @jessica_yarnold by clicking here- My food blog Happy cooking! 🙂