How To Read Food Labels
One of the most important things to understand when trying to improve your health and lose weight is the composition of foods. By now you will have seen my videos and read my other articles so you should be getting a much better idea but here’s a little practical advice to help with this.
What’s in my food?
Food is more than just calories. As you know food contains nutrients with protein, fats and carbohydrates making up the macronutrients which give us our energy. Then there’s micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which are essential for health.
Certain macronutrients are more important than others, with protein being the most important for body composition. But how do you know how much of each macronutrient is in the food you eat?
A really simply way to learn this is to read food labels on the produce you buy.
Not the traffic light system, that’s largely pointless. No, the nutrition advice label.
Do the maths
Now, it’s important to understand that most of the quantities that are given are by 100g amounts. This is really important to understand because the food you’re buying is most likely a different weight to that.
A danio yoghurt pot has a nutrition breakdown as follows:
100kcal, 7g protein, 12g carbohydrate, Fat 2.4 per 100g
That’s all good and well but a danio yoghurt pot weighs 150g so you need to do your maths… Ok I’ll do it for you.
150 kcal, protein 11g, carbohydrates 18g, Fat 3.6g.
Another example, 100g of chicken contains about 25g of protein but a chicken breast can vary from 130g to as much as 250g which means that the serving of protein will vary from 32.5g to 62.5g.
Or, 100g of walnuts comes in at 654kcal but a typical serving is only 30g which is 190kcal.
Conversely 100g of dry lentils contains about 25g of protein and about 60g of carbohydrates. Of course these ratios change for wet lentils but that’s another blog for another day.
Why this is important
Knowing the composition of the foods you eat and learning to judge portion sizes is essential to creating balanced meals. If you are tracking your food on an app like myfitnesspal you have to input the correct quantities into the app otherwise you’re not tracking correctly. This is part of the reason that studies have shown people tend to under report their food intake by as much as 50%.
I know this might seem a little confusing and looks like far too much effort. But all you have to do is look at the labels, occasionally weigh your food as you prepare it and pretty soon you’re able to judge the composition of your food from look alone. It’s worth putting the work in if you are serious about creating healthy changes in your lifestyle.