In any industry there are certain things you have to know in order to do your job, some of these are trade secrets, some, the whole world knows about. In the fitness industry there are too many trade secrets in my book. Things that we as fitness professionals know should be readily available to the public, but often it is a case of knowing where to look. Food labels are a great example. I had always assumed that knowing how to read the nutrition information on the back of a package would be common knowledge, however, it has come to my attention that there are many people who have never been taught how to do this, regardless of the number of diets they have been on. With this in mind I thought would share with you some basics of label reading –
For those food label novices any item of packaged food, be it in a tin, plastic wrapper, jar, container, can, you name it, should carry a food label advising of its contents, and the calorie breakdown. Most brands place this on the back of the packet so as not to interfere with their branding. Note – this does not include home made products.
Step 1. Check the ingredients. Is there anything on the list you are allergic to? Good examples are eggs, nuts, milk and other dairy products, artificial sugar, and some preservatives. On the label shown there is a section titled Allergen Advice however this is not standard. Often food manufacturers sneak in a May contain traces of… and that is it. If you have food allergies always read this part of the packing.
Step 2. At the top of the Nutrition Information table is information regarding the number of servings per pack and the serving size. In the example below there are 4 serves. I always advice my clients to stick to the serving size, there is a reason the portion is that small, and it not just for entertainment at how small most portions really are.
Step 3. Now that you know how big a portion size is you can refrain from eating the entire packet, but more importantly you will notice in the table below that the break-down of food is done in one column per serving and in the second column per 100gm. When analyzing the nutritional value of food always read per 100gm, it is the only way to compare products as serving sizes will vary between brands.
Step 4. Refer to the section of the label which says Carbohydrates, under this is the word Sugars. Go to the 100gm column and analyse how much of the product you are consuming is made up of sugar, in particular man made sugar. In this example it is 0.3gm per 100gm, which is a low sugar content. I advise my clients where possible to limit their sugar intake from processed foods to less than 10% or 10gm per 100gm. This can be hard in items where the main ingredient is fruit, as this is a natural sugar, however, in items that do not contain fruit this rule should be applied.
I am going to leave you this week with the 4 things listed above, that will keep you busy enough in the supermarket, next week we will tackle fat and other items on the list. If in the meantime you have any queries please feel free to email me.