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How to Avoid Food Label Pitfalls

The last two weeks have been devoted to reading nutritional labels and what all that information really means. So, now that you know how to read a food label, here are some mistakes you may be making and how to avoid them!

Account for Serving Size

The nutrition information on the label is all based upon the serving size, which is the amount of food listed on the label. If you’re eating more than one serving then you have to adjust the nutrition information. For example, if you’re having a bowl of cereal and the serving size on the box is listed as 1 cup but you’re having 2 cups you’re going to have to multiply the nutrition information by two in order to get an accurate picture of what it is you’re really taking in.

Servings Measured before Food is Prepared

For foods like pasta and oatmeal the serving size is often measured for the food before it is prepared. If you measure after the food is prepared, you may not be getting an accurate measurement. Conversely, some items are measured after being prepared, so it pays to read food labels carefully and completely.

The Difference Between Natural and Added Sugar

Sugars are listed on the food label under the heading of carbohydrates, but the label won’t let you know if the sugar is a natural part of the food (like in fruit) or if it’s added (like in cereals, sodas and other sweets). You will need to go a step further to differentiate between natural and added sugar by looking at the ingredient list for words that mean added sugar. These are traditionally listed as high fructose corn syrup and sucrose.

Don’t Be Fooled by Zero Trans Fat

The daily recommended amount of trans fat in your diet is a big zero. However, products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can legally list their product as being “zero trans fat” on the packaging. This means that if you have more than one serving the trans fats can add up. You will have to go above and beyond by reading the ingredient list and look for the word “hydrogenated” to find the trans fat that may be hiding in your food.

You work hard to eat healthy, so make sure to do your due diligence when looking at food labels to make sure what you’re getting is really what your body needs and what you want to be putting into it!

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Jim Makos

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