5 Simple Ways to Read Food Labels

All parents want to nourish their families with healthy, nutritious food. However we also often lead crazy busy, hectic lives and don’t have time to make everything from scratch the way grandma used to. I’m not an advocate of pre made food at all; however as a busy working mom I also know that sometimes it’s impossible to avoid it. So how do we make sure that we are keeping our kid’s meals healthy even when we have to resort to pre made food? The answer is learning to read the food labels. Food labels actually tell us everything we need to know about a product if we know a few simple rules of thumb.

Rule #1 
Check serving sizes. On every packaged food item there is always a section that tells you what the serving size is. It’s often located right at the top under “Nutrition Facts”. Serving sizes are listed in cups, pieces or grams in order to make it easy for people to calculate how much they are consuming. Compare the actual serving size to the amount you or your child would be eating to see the difference. Often we are eating serving sizes that are double or triple the amount suggested on the box.

Rule #2 
Read the ingredients. This is pretty straightforward. Read and see how many ingredients you cannot pronounce or would have to Google for a definition. Most often, the more incomprehensible the ingredients there are, the more processed the item.

Rule #3 
Look for hidden sugar. Sugar is a huge problem in modern day food and it’s hidden in many ways. High fructose corn syrup is one of the worst offenders but there are many others like dextrose, maltrose, sucrose, rice syrup, maltodextrin, agave, lactose, fructose, the list goes on and on. Avoiding sugar is about much more than a weight issue. Sugar is highly addictive and is linked to diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancers and more.

Rule #4 
Compare fats, sodium and cholesterol to calcium, iron and vitamins intake. Every item lists the amounts of all of these and it’s important to compare the good to the bad. If a food item is high in fats, sodium and cholesterol and low in vitamins, calcium and iron then it’s clear that it’s not a healthy item. 
There are many more in depth ways to read food labels but if you are just starting out, then using these simple guidelines as a starting point will help point you in the right direction. 

Health and fitness coach, runner and blogger at Montreal Runner Mom, Jennifer’s easy and simple approach to clean eating makes living a healthy lifestyle manageable for busy moms on-the-go. Follow Jennifer to learn how making basic changes in your meal planning can be both delicious and nutritious.