How To Read The Food Labels for Weight Loss
I decided to re-visit the topic of How To Read The Food Labels properly so you aren’t accidently loading in empty carbs or something that your body has to fight off from your weight loss goals. I get a number of clients get VERY frustrated at barriers in they lifestyle changes. They tell me that everything they are doing is right and don’t understand why they aren’t reaching their weight loss goals as quickly as they expect.
Then, as of recently I have had a lot of people contact me with questions about reading food labels…so this is why I decided to give this article a little reboot!
If you are stuck sweating and starving and still don’t know why those pesky pounds won’t go away, then this might have something to do with it. In this article, I am going to go over a few key things to keep in mind the next time you wonder how to read the food labels!
- Macronutrients, just quickly. I go in more detail in THIS article.
- Fat Content
- What are Total Carbs?
- Other Things To Consider
Let’s get into it okay?
I catch myself wandering the food isles being overwhelmed by all the selections. When you read the food labels, they sometimes have SO much information on them, it can be a little overwhelming as well! Especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Depending on your goals, you might need to look for different things on food labels. Personally, I will usually glance at a few things real quick if I am in the store shopping for a specific type of food.
I look at the ingredients to make sure there is not a bunch of artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives in the food. (I usually try to buy organic if I am buying a packaged food).
I also look at 3 other things, the amount of protein, carbs, and fat per serving.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are considered macronutrients. If your goal is weight loss, this is what you need to keep track of. I personally do not count calories, just macronutrients. So when you’re wandering those isles, pick up the item and look for these 3 things.
I circled them on this food label so you can see exactly what to look for. Sometimes the front of the box can fool you as well. You’ll see a lot of protein advertised products ending up having so much sugar in them. PACKED FULL OF 795 grams of protein per serving! Be weary of that!
If you want to learn much more about macronutrients, head on over to my article ALL ABOUT MACROS. It does a deep dive into the exciting world of macronutrients. Don’t worry also, it’s really easy to navigate I like to just teach you like we were talking face to face. I LOVE all of this stuff about fitness and food! If you ever just feel like you don’t want to learn or share that crazy passion about food, I can just do it for you. Just start a conversation and contact me here.
Once you get home and prepare to eat or cook the food, it is important to look at serving size. You may be surprised to find out exactly how big a serving of food is. It is important to measure out the correct portion of this food if your goal is weight loss.
The serving size number you are looking for is located at the VERY TOP of the entire food label! This number is at the top for a reason: The nutritional information on the rest of the label applies to ONLY one serving. The FDA sets serving sizes for all foods―they are measurements, not recommendations. So we can now make intelligent choices in our food, and food preparation.
Remember, the amounts of protein, carbs, and fats are taken from the amount of one serving of that food. It isn’t for the entire contents of the packaging. And that packaging, like I mentioned earlier, is deceiving! Lets show you an example…
Take a look at the image of the FRITOS here. We’ve all seen them. The little delicious bags of Fritos Originals. They are so tiny and want to be eaten. BUT…now that you learned about PORTION CONTROL, let’s A bag of chips might say it has 160 calories per serving, but the entire bag might be three servings, or 480 calories.
Keeping track of the amount of fat in a serving of your food is important. Fat is more calorically dense than protein and carbohydrates. Keep in mind that “fat-free” doesn’t mean “calorie-free.” Many fat-free and low-fat foods have added sugar. Fat is an essential nutrient that our bodies require to live; it assists in vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, and brain function.
This large category includes everything from whole grains, fruits, and veggies (healthy carbs) to sugars, breads, and other processed carbs (unhealthy ones). Our bodies love carbs, this is the first thing we digest, and it gets digested the quickest. Carbs are stored in the liver, brain, blood and muscles as glycogen. Our bodies use carbohydrates for energy.
The right amount of protein intake will help build muscle and prevent muscle loss if you are in a calorie deficit. It controls appetite and staves off hunger better than fats or carbohydrates because it causes you to feel full longer. When looking at a food labels, it is important to look at the big picture of protein, carbs and fats in a food. A food (such as peanut butter) may look like a good source of protein at first (7grams), but when you look at the grams of fat and carbohydrates in the food, protein is actually the lowest. Lean protein (with less fats) will help you reach your goals the fastest.
Protein also requires more energy than other macronutrients for your body to digest, so it effectively burns more calories gram for gram through the digestion process.
Other things on food labels:
Calories: I don’t count calories, you don’t have to if your keep track of your macronutrients. Calories provide us with energy, you probably know that. All calories come from proteins, fats, carbs or alcohol. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) do not contain calories.
Sodium: This is not important to worry about if you are just trying to lose weight, unless you have an underlying medical issue.
Cholesterol: This is not important to worry about if you just trying to lose weight, unless you have an underlying medical issue.
Saturated fat: This does not need to be counted separately (goes under fat macronutrient)
Sugar: This does not need to be counted (goes under carb macronutrient),
Fiber: This is not important to worry about for fat loss goals unless you are having digestive issues.
% daily value: Completely disregard this!!! It is based on a 2000 calorie diet. This is why we have an obesity epidemic in the US. Most people do not need this much calories. Your dietary recommendations should be based on height, body percent fat, age, physical activity levels, genetics, and many other things, not a generic recommendation set by the FDA.
Stay tuned: Next time I will be discussing foods without nutrition labels (whole foods, fruits, veggies, certain meats)
Remember, I can do all of this for you in one easy plan! I offer virtual services and individualized programs where I work with you to help you make the lifestyle changes needed to create an environment for PEREMANENT weight loss solutions. Just fill out this form and I will get back with you as soon as I can!
Sarah Williams MS, ATC, SFN