I’m sure most of us have learned at some point how to read a nutritional label. Whether you’ve been taught by a nutritionist, a personal trainer/strength coach, a health teacher or if you just saw a segment on Good Morning America, I’m sure that you somehow know how to read one. Maybe you don’t remember what to look for, how much protein you need, how much fat is too much, or whatever else. And I will admit that it can be confusing to someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about nutrition. But whether you remember or not how to read a label, you might be focusing on the wrong things.
The first thing to know about nutritional labels is that if there is one, it’s usually not a good start.
Does meat usually have a label? Do fruits have labels? Do vegetables have labels?
I rest my case.
You see, most of the natural foods that you can either grow or hunt, are sold as is at the grocery store; no nice box, no colorful packages, no nutritional info….because you know what you get!
When you get foods that come in a box, or a wrapper you know that it’s (to different extents) usually processed food…or should I say food products. Because I’m not sure you’re great great grandfather would recognize this as being food:
So, processed foods are bad. They’re usually lacking in any nutrients, they don’t fill you, they don’t provide you with any energy and they’re full of preservatives. Maybe I’m going to far, and I do realize that nothing as been proven to that extent, but maybe, just maybe those “food products” and their preservatives that have become the bulk of North Americans’ diets are the cause of all the health problems of our society….Hey, how many types of cancer existed before the big food companies started putting dozens of preservatives in everything we eat. This is a statement that’s not backed by any scientific research (as far as I know), but think about it for a second…
But that being said, there are some foods that will present with a label that won’t necessarily be bad for you. But instead of looking at the protein/carbs/fat content, I’d encourage you to look at the ingredient list before anything else. This is where you’ll know the quality of what you put in your mouth. The less ingredients the better. And the more ingredients you can recognize (real ingredients that is) the better, as well. Don’t be fooled by the claims that are being made on the products, or even by the protein/carbs/fat content, because even that can fool you.
If you look at the label of this sample protein bar, you might think that the protein/carbs/fat ratio is not too bad, and considering it’s a “protein bar” it’s probably a healthy choice. Well, think again. Read the list of ingredients and tell me you know all the ingredients in it! This is not a protein bar….it’s a candy bar with protein!
To make wise nutritional choices, you want to pick something with as little ingredients as possible in it, and with as many of them that you can recognize as being ‘real food’.
Eating healthy comes down to eating a lot of real, natural foods with a lot of nutrients and little to no preservatives. And the more you can avoid pre-made stuff, and prepare food yourself, the better off you’re going to be!
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