Understanding Your Food Labels

In case you missed it…

Earlier this summer we launched our wellness workshop series and kicked it off with what we (Wellness coach Abbie Ladd and myself), believe to be some very valuable and misunderstood information; Food Labels. Often over-looked or merely glanced at, we uncovered the details behind food labels. What do they really mean, how should you read them, and most relevant, what’s changing?

As of July 1st the old food labels have been phased out and the new ones will be rolling in. For those of us that haven’t bothered reading the label anyway, you may not notice the updated bigger and bolder calorie count, the modifications to more appropriate and realistic portion sizes (i.e what we’re REALLY eating), or even the swap out of Vitamin A and C for Potassium and Vitamin D. What we were MOST excited about was the introduction of the “Added Sugars” line of the food label. Allowing us to better understand how much extra is getting mixed in that doesn’t naturally occur in the product. Any effort the Food and Drug Administration can make to improve the ease of understanding what we eat daily is always positive.

Once we’ve uncovered the recent edits, we dove a bit deeper into some of the specifics. Here are a few highlights worth sharing, in case you didn’t know.

FATS: Not all fats are created equal. Most of us know the potential health hazards of certain fats, specifically trans fats and sometimes saturated fats. While research provides enough reason to eliminate trans fats in our diets, saturated fats are a hot topic. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to look at the total amount of fat and consider how much is saturated.

DIETARY FIBER: That less bold line under carbohydrates is actually more important than what’s given credit in its presentation. When considering the fiber content vs. carb count, you can subtract dietary fiber from total carbohydrates to get the net carbs. The higher the dietary fiber the more stars we can award the food, as dietary fiber acts as a wonderful way to help slow down digestion and let’s just say keep us more “regular“.

ADDED SUGARS: Before this new line was created, we were expected to read the ingredients and differentiate between the 40+ names of sugar hidden within the item. Now, with ease, we can glance and make educated decision on whether that additional added sugar is necessary (think birthday cake) vs. added sugar that in reality isn’t what we’re looking for (think “healthy” post workout fuel bar).

INGREDIENTS LIST: Don’t skip over this part of the food label! The ingredients listed are in the order in which they occur in volume, which may allow you to create a clearer picture on what the make-up of that item really is. When marketed as “whole wheat” but the first ingredient is “enriched white flour” followed by water, sugar, oil, salt, and then MAYBE whole wheat, you may not be getting as much wheat or fiber as advertised.

We left the discussion with what we as wellness coaches suggest when de-coding a food label for it’s quality (if that’s what you’re going for).

  1. Check the serving size

  2. Identify amount of dietary fiber

  3. Look for additional added sugars

  4. Read the ingredients!

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean we don’t feel things like fat, sodium and cholesterol have value. They do, and they especially do if an individual is already diagnosed with certain conditions or are at high risk for developing chronic disease. We just feel for the average individual NOT currently checking out the back of the package that this is a great place to start.

If you missed our workshop and are still interested in more information, send us a comment or e-mail! We’d love to help uncover any additional questions you may be sitting with when it comes to food labels.

More importantly, don’t miss our upcoming workshop when we dive into all the details around the trendy eating protocol that is “Intermittent Fasting” on September 19th from 5:30-6:30 at the Springfield Food Coop. Click HERE to register. and HERE for more information.

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