If you're like us, you often spend your time perusing the grocery aisles and reading the glamorous claims on the front of boxes, jars, and bottles. Each claims to be healthier than the last. But if they all claim to be the "healthiest," how do you really know which one to choose? Hint: you're reading the wrong side of the label. All the information you need doesn't exist in the fancy fonts and eye-catching photos on the front of the label. No, what you need to read is that much less exciting black and white box on the back- the nutrition label. Don't know what you're looking for? That's where we come in.
As with most things, start at the beginning of the label – the serving size. Companies trick us all the time with this tiny number. We speed read through it and rarely stop to understand its significance. The serving size is the difference between 200 calories and 600, between 7 mg of cholesterol and 28 mg of cholesterol – it determines how we read the rest of the label. So when you grab a product this should be the first thing you look to for guidance
(Nutrition label from Lumi's Morning Sunrise juice!)
Once we know our serving size, and servings per container, we can move to the dreaded word, “calories”. Here’s the thing: calories shouldn’t be scary. We need them to work, play, and even sleep but we have to keep a balance. Focus on eating and drinking products that have calories balanced with lots of nutritional components, rather than ‘empty calories’ like processed snacks and sodas.
Further down on the label we have our fats and salts. First, breathe. Fat is not bad for us in low doses, in fact, we all need it. The most important thing on the nutrition label here is the breakdown between Trans and Saturated fats. The American Health Association recommends eliminating all Trans fat possible, and limiting Saturated Fats to 11-13 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet. As far as Sodium goes 1,500 mg is the name of the game, according to the AHA – but, be careful with this one, salt sneaks up in everything.
(Nutrition label from Lumi's Minted Greens Juice)
When it comes to sugars, the key word is “added”. Avoid products with sugars that are not naturally occurring, and look on the ingredients list to scout out any words ending with “ose”, which are all forms of sugar. Sugars that are naturally in fruits and vegetables or other ingredients can be managed and included in your daily diet in limited doses.
Spark Notes: Fats, salts and sugars in moderation.
Finally, we reach the ‘good stuff’ on the label. The stuff that keeps us healthy and happy, and the stuff we need most! Fibers and vitamins nourish our bodies, while calcium, iron, and proteins keep us strong. So when you are inundated with the pretty labels claiming to be the “healthiest”, take a good long look at this section of their labels to find out the truth.
(Nutrition label from Lumi's Jump Shot juice!)
Nutrition labels can be confusing and even misleading. From calories and serving size, to fats and sugars, it’s difficult to understand how all the ingredients fit together in the product and in your body. We “Love yoU, Mean It”, and we hope this helps you simplify and navigate your way though grocery store shelves and beyond…