Everything you ever wanted to know about reading nutrition labels

Want to know the secret to losing eight pounds instantly? Well, the key may be in reading--reading nutrition labels, that is!

A new study published in the journal Agricultural Economics found that people who read nutrition labels weigh less and, even better, this particularly affected women! Sadly, though, not enough of us are looking at the nutrition labels on our food: a study in last year's Journal of the American Dietetic Association discovered that only nine percent of people look at the calorie count and just one percent look at the other components. So what's in a label, then? And how do we read nutrition labels to lose weight?

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Serving Size: This is one of the most important things to look at. When you buy a bag of chips and you think it's low in calories, did you check how many servings are in it? The problem typically lies in a treat being low in calories but having too many servings, which all adds up. Keep an eye on these as the suggested serving size to consume 

Calories: Well, this is the biggie, isn't it? High calories aren't great but low calories do need to be seriously considered--especially if there's too many calories from fat. That's actually another number that needs to be looked at because, while the total amount of calories is important, it's more about all of these numbers. 

Fat: One of the big ones to check for: what kind of fat is in this product and how much of it? Not all fat is created equal, since there ARE some healthy fats (like the monounsaturated kind found in avocado and nuts) versus the saturated or trans fats (the worst!) which can be found in other products. These numbers are the ones to watch, since not all fats have harmful effects but the ones that do can be REALLY bad. 

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Fiber: Fiber is good. In fact, fiber is your best friend when it comes to nutrition labels. The reason why I'm so in love with fiber is because it keeps me full longer. It's the same reason why, for health and weight loss, people recommend whole-wheat grains over white bread. This is definitely one number on a nutritional label that you actually WANT to be higher. 

Sugars: Unlike fiber, sugar is absolutely NOT your BFF when it comes to nutrition labels. The lower this number, then the better you're off. Sugar is actually one of the bigger reasons why I stay away from flavored yogurts (instead, I opt for plain blood pressure-lowering yogurt). In fact, just the fact that sugar is as addicting as cocaine should be reason enough to keep a firm eye on this number!

Protein: Protein has a little bit of a double edged sword when it comes to nutrition labels. It does raise the calorie count in most cases but, at the same time, it's not exactly bad for you. A higher protein level, like fiber, is going to help keep you full a little longer. This one's definitely one to watch--but not in the bad way at all. 

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Topics: healthy eating  nutrition  weight loss