Probably the most daunting thing when you set out on a new health kick, lifestyle, eating plan or diet, would have to be finding food that you can eat and eliminating foods you can't. The biggest part of discovering this would have to be learning to read product labels and deciphering what it all means. Our aim today is to help you learn how easy it can be to read a product label so you can walk into your local health food store or supermarket with confidence.
So what are you looking for???
You'll be interested in either the Nutritional Information, which you'll find in a box that is usually labelled as 'Nutritional Information'. The Nutritional Information will give you a break down of all the Fat, Protein, Carbs, Sugars, Energy or Calories in the products, and occasionally a percentage of your RDI for these and even some of your basic nutrients such as Vitamin C, Folate, Iron and so on. Alternatively, you may be more interested in what individual ingredients and additives are contained within the product. For this you'll have to look a little closer. It is usually found not too far from the Nutritional Information box, and is a paragraph of fine print listing all ingredients used to make the product.
Nutritional Information or Ingredients???
The old school way of thinking seems to lean towards the Fat, Protein, Carb, Sugar content of food. The total Calories or the amount of Saturated Fats seems to be the deciding factor as to whether or not it is allowed on a particular diet. Firstly, be aware that there are two columns in your nutritional information, Per Serve and Per 100g.... and I'm sorry to say but your block of chocolate is rarely ever just one serve per packet! Shocking I know! If you take a quick glance up the top of your Nutritional Information box you'll see a little note that says how many servings per packet. If you're going to keep to your diet then this little bit of information is absolutely essential.
Now days, the new diet, lifestyle, health and fitness trends tend to be more focused on what ingredients you are and are not eating, rather than solely focusing on the ratio of Fats, Proteins and Carbs. It is an important shift in thinking that had to happen at some point, as more and more companies are adding cheeky little ingredients into their products to enhance the flavour, sweetness, saltiness, colour or texture. Although it may make the food more desirable, these additives are often quite harmful to your health. It's important to understand what you're eating, and how it will effect you. It's also becoming vital for some people suffering from allergies to Gluten, Dairy, Nuts and Soy products, as these additives quite often are derived from items containing the allergenic compounds.
What do all the numbers mean???
Unfortunately, companies seem to be catching onto the fact that well educated foodies won't purchase their products that contain nasty additives because of the health implications. As such they have a preference to simply list the Food Additive number rather than the actual food or chemical name in their labelling. Each series of numbers relates to a certain food additive, sweetener, flavour enhancer, preservative or other chemical compound that may or may not be something you actually want to be eating. But never fear, we have the answer! It's all found in a little red, pocket sized book called 'The Chemical Maze'. You can look up any food additive by name or number and it will give you a full description of what it is, what it's derived from and if it is good, bad or neutral. It's so simple that even the kids can use it and follow the simple smiley or sad face symbols to tell if it's good or bad.
Well that is reading labels in a nut shell! Hopefully that give you a bit more confidence to battle the food labels. But the most confidence you'll gain is by doing it, over and over. So get your copy of The Chemical Maze and get shopping!