how to read nutrition labels

How to Read Nutrition Facts ?

On the previous page we talked about why exactly sugar is so bad for you and why it is the reason why so many of us are overweight. On this page we will look at processed food products in particular> We look at what’s in it and why we should avoid them. We will also talk about how to read labels. Very important, because only if you know what’s in it, you can decide whether you should eat it or not. Now, reading labels seems to be very complicated but with the right app on your phone it actually isn’t. Still, the food industry tries very hard to make it as confusing as possible. Dr. Maya Adam of Stanford University shows us in a short video here below what to pay attention to.

Dr. Maya Adam - Stanford University

play

In Short the Video's Content

  • better avoid food with nutrition labels
  • keep an eye on serving size and number
  • calories aren't unhealthy by definition
  • take in enough fibers
  • avoid sugar
  • trans fat in processed food should be avoided entirely
  • almost always too much sodium (salt) in processed food
  • added vitamins won't necessarily make food healthy
ingredients list

The Ingredients List

You might usually not read the ingredients list of a product.  A pity because there are 2  important things to say about it:

  1. the first ingredient on the list is in weight the most predominant one. In other words: the ingredient that makes up the most of the product’s total weight will appear first, followed by the next, and so on. So, at the end of the list is the ingredient with the least weight.
  2. the best products are those with only a few ingredients with names you understand. Having this said; look at the two different brands of soy sauce and think about which one is the best product? 
kikkoman soy sauce

Ingredients: water, soybeans, salt,
sugar

Soy Sauce bottle

Ingredients: Water, salt, soybeans, sugar, wheat flour, caramel color, disodium 5'-inosinate and disodium 5'-guanylate as flavor enhancers.

Which soy sauce would you buy?

Two random products

Ingredients list bad
ingredients list good

Which one would you buy?

Nutritionix

Reading Nutrition Facts

Now it's time to look at How to read Nutrition Facts Labels. Not so long ago this was so difficult, that you almost needed a university degree to understand what was written on these labels. Fortunately, from January 1st, 2020 it has become a bit easier. But it's still a matter of caution. Especially when it comes to serving size.

Take, for example, the product on the right: Bush's Best Honey Sweet Baked Beans. The serving size is half a cup which is not very much and certainly not enough for someone who is very hungry. However, the producer still has this serving size on his website. So, if you eat a whole cup of beans, you will also get twice as many calories.

Below you'll see a few products. Click on the Nutrition Facts Label next to one of these products to find out how many calories you'd take in if you'd eat the amount you're used to.

While doing this, also check how much sugar and salt (sodium) they contain. You will be surprised how much of the "Daily Value" you'd take in when eating these products. Some of them, like cupcake icing, have sugar for obvious reasons, whereas with baked beans, cereals, peanut butter, soup, cheese macaroni or lasagna it is a miracle why sugar had to be added. From January 1st. 2020 the amount of added sugar must be on the label. 

You want to see your numbers?
Just click on the nutrition labels.

Honey Sweet Baked Beans

from Bush's Best

Beans Baked Honey from Bush's Best

3.5 servings / can

Beans, Baked, Honey from Bush's Best

Ingredients: Beef Stock, Onions, Water, Dehydrated Onions, Potato Starch, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Yeast Extract, Vegetable Oil, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Flavoring, Caramel Color, Beef Flavor (Contains Beef Stock, Yeast Extract), Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein, Enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Calcium Chloride], Water, Disodium Phosphate, Enzymes, Natural Flavoring (Milk), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Beef Fat, Citric Acid, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Lactic Acid, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten.

French Onion Soup

from Campbell's

Condensed Soup French Onion

2.5 servings / can

Condensed Soup, French Onion from Campbell's

Ingredients: Prepared White Beans, Water, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey Cured Bacon, Salt, Honey, Mustard (Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Natural Flavor), Modified Food Starch, Onion, Caramel Color, Spices, Garlic.

BBQ Sauce Original

from Bull's Eye

Bull's-Eye BBQ Sauce Original

14 servings

Bull's-Eye BBQ Sauce Original

Ingredients: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Sugar, Molasses, Vinegar, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Modified Food Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor, Mustard Flour, Dried Onions, Spice, Dried Garlic

Creamy Peanut Butter

from Jif

Jif Creamy Peanut Butter

14 servings

Jif Creamy Peanut Butter

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts And Sugar, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed And Soybean), Mono And Diglycerides, Salt.

Pop-Tarts

from Kellogg's

KELLOGG'S POP-TARTS
KELLOGG'S POP-TARTS

Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, Dextrose, Soybean and Palm Oil (with TBHQ for Freshness), Graham Flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cracker Meal, Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids, Whey, Contains Two Percent or Less of Cornstarch, Molasses, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Milk), Honey, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Salt, Lactose, Modified Corn Starch, Soy Lecithin, Dried Egg Whites, Gelatin, Color Added, Xanthan Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid.

Macaroni Chees

from Kraft

kraft-macaroni-cheese

3 servings

kraft-macaroni-cheese

Ingredients: enriched macaroni product (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate [iron], thiamin mononitrate [vitamin b1], riboflavin [vitamin b2], folic acid), cheese sauce mix (whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, contains less than 2% of citric acid, lactic acid, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, with paprika, turmeric and annatto added for color, enzymes, cheese culture).

Lasagna

from Hamburger Helper

Lasagna from Hamburger Helper

5 servings

Lasagna from Hamburger Helper

Ingredients: Enriched Pasta (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tomato*, Monosodium Glutamate, Low Moisture Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese* (Part Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Basil, Natural Flavor, Whey, Parmesan Cheese* (Part Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Citric Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Spice, Roasted Garlic*, Oregano, Buttermilk, Color (Yellows 5 & 6, Yellow Lakes 5 & 6, Red 40 Lake), Cheddar Cheese* (Cultured Milk, Salt and Enzymes), Sodium Phosphate, Calcium Lactate, Silicon Dioxide (Anticaking Agent), Garlic*, Lactic Acid, Yeast Extract. *Dried.


This is an "interesting" one: Kashi Go Lean Cereal. The good stuff is shown in big letters on the packaging: proteins, fibers and whole grains. But in tiny letters the nutrition label mentions 8 gram sugar per 58 gram serving. That is 13.8% !!!!! 

Go Lean

Original Cereal from Kashi 

Original Cereal from Kashi Go Lean

6 servings

Original Cereal from Kashi Go Lean

Ingredients: Kashi Seven Whole Grain Honey Puff Cereal (Hard Red Wheat, Brown Rice, Honey, Cane Syrup, Barley, Triticale, Oats, Rye, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Degerminated Yellow Corn Flour, Expeller Pressed Soy Grits, Ground Degerminated Corn, Cane Syrup (Molasses), Expeller Pressed Soy Protein Isolate, Oat Fiber, Wheat Bran, Expeller Pressed Soy Flour, Corn Bran, Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Flour (Whole Oats, Hard Red Wheat, Rye, Brown Rice, Triticale, Barley, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Salt, Natural Flavors, Annatto Extract Color.

Ingredients: Prepared White Beans, Water, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Bacon, Salt, Honey, Mustard (Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, ,Natural Flavor), Modified Corn Starch, Onion Powder, Caramel Color, Spices, Garlic Powder

Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water Tomato Paste, Vinegar, Molasses, Modified Food Starch, Apple Cider Vinegar, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Mustard Flour, Spice, Honey, Dried Onion, Potassium Sorbate.

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low sodium recipes

The Big Book of Low-Sodium Recipes
Author: Linda Larsen

Adams Media; October 2015
480 pages; ISBN 9781440591662
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The Big Book of Low-Sodium Recipes shows you how to create hundreds of heart-healthy dishes that help you control your sodium intake. From hearty breakfasts like Egg Sausage Sandwiches to mouthwatering plates like Beef and Bean Enchiladas, each page offers meals that are so tasty, you won't need to give up your favorite flavors. With more than 500 delicious recipes to choose from, you'll transform every meal into a low-sodium one with easy-to-make plates like:

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