Sunday, February 19, 2012


“The only way to know exactly what you’re eating is to learn to read the labels on these potential enemies...Labels are the ultimate test of whether a food is a true or false friend.” 
- Rip Esselstyn author The Engine 2 Diet -
I don’t know about you but I tend to focus on whole foods vs. ready-made foods for my nutrition. However, it is necessary for me to buy a certain amount of prepared foods each week and knowing how to read labels is very important. It goes without saying that reading and understanding food nutrition labels can at times be very challenging. And, it is my opinion that food manufacturers make it as difficult as possible on the unwary consumer in order to turn a profit. 
My general rule of thumb is the simpler the better when it comes to reading labels. Meaning, if the product only has 2 or 3 ingredients that is better than 50 ingredients all of which I am unable to pronounce or decipher. 
In an attempt to understand more I read Rip Esselstyn’s book The Engine 2 Diet this past week. In chapter 3 he explains how to read those annoying labels. Even after reading and doing the math, I have to admit that I’m still a little bewildered, because there is so much to consider!  So in this post I’m only going to share a little of what I learned and ask you to read his book for yourself to get more of that valuable information. 
Two Rules When Reading Labels
Rule 1 - Never believe what is on the front of the label - Most of what is printed on the outside of the package is just a marketing ploy or hook to get you to buy the product. Beware the label that says “no trans-fat” or “all natural” or “fat free” and the likes. You can never believe the label without reading the nutritional information on the back of the package
Rule 2 - Read the nutritional information - The nutritional information can also be deceiving unless you know what to pay attention to. Look for these key pieces of information:
  • How many servings are in the container? 
  • How many calories per serving?
  • What is the percentage of calories from fat?
  • What is the calories from fat per serving?
Food manufacturers play a lot of games including shrinking the serving size down in order to be able to make claims on the label such as “Fat Free” and the likes. Pay attention to serving sizes! 
Read the Ingredients List and Compare 
Some food manufacturers claim their product has “Zero Trans-Fat.” Be aware that if you see this on the label you will still need to read the list of ingredients to make sure it is the truth. Look for anything that says “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated.” If these ingredients are in the list then you know that this food DOES have trans-fats in it and you should avoid it! Never believe the label without verifying the ingredients. 
So Much More to Consider
When you are choosing prepared foods there are a lot of other things to consider in order to make an informed purchase. If you can’t read or pronounce the ingredients on the label, you probably don't really want to eat it.
Become aware of genetically modified foods vs. organic foods and the food labeling regulations of the products you buy. The more you know – the more you can avoid the unhealthy stuff!
Whenever you are considering buying something, ask yourself-as you read the label-if this food is beneficial or detrimental to your health. If the food offers whole grains, fiber, antioxidants, essential vitamins & minerals then go ahead. If the food is filled with cholesterol, added fats, added sugar or sodium, or is high in calories avoid it. Choose a healthy food item instead. 
It’s been said before that “knowledge is power” and I believe that to be a true statement. Give yourself the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about your purchases. Become a well-informed consumer and do not fall prey to unhealthy marketing ploys. 

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