Fit Fem’rs, I’ve got a question to ask you.  Do you read nutrition labels? Do you know how nutrition labels work and how this information can either help or hinder your journey to weight loss and fitness? You know, it always unpleasantly surprises me how few people know how to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Now this article is only an introduction and will break down the basics. I’ll leave my advice on what foods to pick for a later blog topic.  And while I’m on this note, I’ll be brutally honest…it’s best you pick foods that don’t have any labels. You might say well Syl, how could you say that? Easy…foods with no labels are usually fresh foods that grow from the ground or are animal protein. And guess what, these foods are less likely to be tampered with, i.e., the adding of natural flavors and preservation chemicals. You know what that means? Such additives are recognized as toxins in your body and that get’s stored in fat cells. Yup, you guessed it, hence our fat asses and our delayed success to weight loss and fitness.

But for now, let’s get to learn some food labels. Shall we??

Weight loss andfitness experts advise that you read the nutrition labels with the food you eat but how can you do this if you do not know how to read one?  To some, they are just random letters, numbers, and values that aren’t appreciated in anyway.  If you really want to achieve your weight loss and fitness goals, you must start learning how to interpret these values.  The FDA did not put it there for nothing.

Nutrition labels help you determine the amount of calories and nutrients in a particular serving of food.  You will know whether you are eating a healthy and balanced diet.  To help you in your weight loss and fitness goals, here is a brief description of the information listed on the food labels.

Measurements: First thing is first. Most nutrients on food labels are measured in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) which is 1/1000 of a gram. Yea, I know, I hate math…thought you should know though. Other measurements in food labels include percentages and you’ll see this with vitamins like A, C, D and minerals like iron and calcium. This is called percent daily value. This is mandated by the FDA to be placed on all food labels.  This will give you the information whether the serving of food has enough nutrients.  The nutrition labels aids your weight loss and fitness program in limiting the nutrients you want more or less off.   You will notice that the percent daily value does not add up to 100%; each nutrient is based on 100% of daily requirements.  Remember that it depends on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.  You may need to adjust depending on your caloric requirement.  Check in with a nutritionist or physician to find out what that is.

Let’s take crackers for instance. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, the label would suggest that the food provides less than 1 g of fiber which is only 3% of the person’s daily needs. So that means he or she would have to eat other foods to get 100% of the fiber needed each day. Similarly, the person would see that the crackers provide nothing toward the daily goals for vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron.

Serving size: This is the first item that you would see.  You will notice that this is in general household measurements like cups, pieces, or ounces.  It is an important part of weight loss and fitness program because it will give you an idea of how much you should consume to get the proper amounts of calories.   If serving size says one piece, and you consume two pieces, then you should note that the listed calories you get is double. This is where the pitfall is…don’t assume because you buy one package of something that it equals to one serving. Be very careful.

Calories: This is the measure of the energy that you get per serving.  This will help you manage your weight loss and fitness program effectively.  Say one serving has 100 calories, if you consume two of it, the calories you get is 200.  Let’s understand the following; to lose 1 pound of fat, you will need to create a caloric deficit of 3500 calories, either through portion controlled food intake or exercise.

Total fat (saturated fat and trans fat), cholesterol, and sodium that are obviously the ingredients that you should limit intake to help you achieve weight loss and fitness goals. DUH! The ingredients that do help your weight loss are the dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. This will help you reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions such as heart disease, cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The ingredient list is another really important part of the label. Ingredients are listed in order so you get an idea of how much of each ingredient is in the food. When something is listed first, second, or third, you know that this food probably contains a lot of it. The food will contain smaller amounts of the ingredients mentioned at the end of the list.

With that in mind, check ingredient lists to see where sugar appears. Limit foods that mention sugar in the first few ingredients. Sugar equals fat. Fat equals a muffin top, butt dimples, cottage cheese thighs, and flabby arms. Who wants that? I sure don’t. So stop sabotaging your weight loss and fitness plan.  Beware, sugar has different names, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, dextroseFind Article, or glucose just to name a few.

So ya think you’re ready to food shop? Be smart with your shopping and apply what you just learned about food labels and ingredient lists. Has this helped you in your weight loss and fitness goals?  Let me know in the comment box below.