Read the Label, Lose 9 Pounds
One of the things I love about my job is how differently clients approach the path to personal growth. Yet one goal many of my clients have in common is the improved health and fitness they know they’ll experience as a result of weight loss.
My approach to helping a client to achieve a weight-related goal is holistic. We look at diet, daily routine and environment, instead of obsessing over calories or following strict regimes. Part of this strategy typically involves getting sugar intake under control, and as such, reading nutrition labels on packaged foods. Sounds simple right?
Yet an online search for “How to read labels for weight loss” returns about 3,730,000 results, or at least as of 4/18 it did. A number that size can either overwhelm or scare you. Either way though, it probably doesn’t inspire you to action.
Fortunately, you don’t need extensive research to unlock the secrets of the nutrition panel located on the side of every food package. Yes, the panels are usually tiny, so you may need to grab your glasses, but key in on a few important numbers and it’s worth the squint!
Did you know researchers have found that women who read food labels weigh nearly nine pounds less on average than those who don’t? (as reported in Business Insider*)
These women weren’t given any additional instructions or nutrition information, they were simply instructed to look at 2 nutrition panels before making a purchase. That simple act resulted in 9 pounds of weight loss over a 6 month period, with no additional action taken. It doesn’t have to be painful, simply focus on a few basic numbers and you’ll be able to make better choices.
When you read a nutrition label, focus on:
Calories are the go-to number for most people, but are you also checking out whether that bottle of green juice contains one serving or two?
Food manufacturers know we check calorie counts, so they come up with creative ways to lower that number by treating foods that are obviously packaged as individual servings, as 2 or more servings. I’ve even seen this done on healthy-sounding energy bars! If you don’t look carefully, you could be in for double the calories you’re counting on.
It is true that the more sugar you eat, the more you crave. This is the first number I look at, and I guarantee when you start reading, you will be surprised. Sugar is found in places you would least expect it, including healthy-sounding, organic packaged foods. The bottom line is, by all counts most of us consume too much of it.
Keep in mind that 4 grams = a teaspoon of sugar, so when your superfood smoothie contains 24 grams of sugar, that’s 6 teaspoons of sugar. Even when it’s not added sugar, there is no fiber in juice to stop that surge to your bloodstream like a jolt of lightening, immediately causing blood sugar levels to rise.
And we all know the crash that’s soon to follow, marking the start to a vicious sugar cycle that can last all day.
You’re far better off consuming naturally sugary foods in their whole state, as apples and berries, so the fiber they contain can fill you up and deliver a slow release of sugar, with no highs or crashes.
25 grams of sugar is the daily recommended allowance for women, so keeping this number to a minimum is your healthiest option. And if that high fiber whole grain cereal contains more than 4 grams of sugar per serving, opt for one that doesn’t!
While protein in a critical nutrient, it’s hardly a common deficit. Fiber is the under-recognized powerhouse we need to zone in on. Women should aim for a diet of 25 grams of fiber per day, yet this recommendation is rarely reached by most Americans.
Why the fiber? Dietary fiber promotes health and wellness in a number of ways. It creates a feeling of fullness after meals, which helps us to maintain our ideal weight. And adequate fiber intake can help to both lower cholesterol and to keep blood sugar within a healthy range.
Whole Food (no, not the store). The problem for many people is that fiber is found only in whole plant foods, which aren’t as easy or available as grab and go options. Yet simply eating whole fruits and vegetables, skin on where possible, provides a nice dose of fiber without time-consuming preparation.
Fiber also is found in beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Typically, the more refined or processed a food, the lower its fiber content. So back to the nutrition panel; look for fiber in the 4-9 gram per serving range and you’re on the right track!
Easier Than it Sounds If this sounds hard, consider that once you have a plan in place, it really isn’t. Try starting your day with a bowl of sugar-free oatmeal or whole grain cereal and some high energy sugar-free tea or coffee. Grab an apple for a snack, include a salad with lunch and a side of veggies with dinner, and you’re well on your way to sugar-free and fiber fabulous!
Nutrition Label Bottom Line:
- Portion size: 1 serving
- Sugar: >5 grams
- Fiber: 4+ grams
High Energy Eating
Of course the healthiest foods don’t contain nutrition labels, they’re whole foods. The more of these foods you can include in your diet, the better! Yet I also live in reality, so when you need to grab and go, as I know you will, be sure to check the label. Make it a habit, and before you know it, end up 9 pounds lighter!
Business Insider*: http://www.businessinsider.com/study-people-who-read-food-labels-weigh-less-2014-2
Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
American Heart Association: https://tinyurl.com/yd4nkbee
Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/guide-to-daily-fiber/too-much-fiber/
Interesting read! I think the majority of food companies, if not all, lie about their products being a healthy choice even if it’s not. That’s why as a consumer, we should be responsible for checking the labels and ingredients carefully before buying.