How Do I Read a Food Label? Start Here!

Trying to lose weight during your Chicago personal training experience?   How do you know what’s most important on your food labels?  Grocery shopping is an overwhelming experience and it doesn’t need to turn into a 4 hour trip as you perform an analysis on every product.  Try to look for the following stats on your packaged food:

       *Saturated fat: Products with red meat, dairy, or any animal fat, will most likely have higher amounts of saturated fat and are correlated with an elevated risk of obesity and heart disease.  Mayo clinic suggests that your saturated fat intake should be less than 7% of your caloric intake.  As a safe measure, I suggest limiting your saturated fat to 1 gram for every 100 calories.  In a 300-400 restricted calorie meal, you will average 3-4 grams of saturated fat.  This is a fair amount that won’t limit the food you love too much and will minimize the total bad fat in your diet.  No matter the amount, determine the number best for you based on your dietary needs and health condition.

       *Calories: Your body demands different amounts of calories based on your activity level and other factors.  Generally speaking, 300-400 calories is a great goal for weight loss during each meal.  Will the number of calories in a given product sufficiently meet your nutritional needs and satiety?  You may reconsider a product that costs you 300 calories but is only a small portion of your meal.

       *Sugars.  Refrain from buying a product with sugar listed as one of the top three ingredients.  These products tend to bear higher amounts of sugar content (This is important if you’re trying to lower the amount in your diet).  If sugar is desired, lean towards natural fruit sugar instead of sweeteners or cane sugar.

   * Sodium (400mg or less).  A high sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure (which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke) and water retention.  Mayo clinic suggests 1500-2300 milligrams per day.  Based on this amount, you want to aim for 300-400 mg per meal (Many frozen dinners are 800 mg or more!).  When considering a product, take into account other foods you might also eat during the meal.  The total may exceed the goal for each meal.

Despite the suggestions above, it is most important to study your body’s reaction to food during your weight loss.  If you can’t lose weight, it may be as simple as cutting out 100 calories per day or a reaction towards a food.  These suggestions are my standard and different body types deviate from them.  Check with your physician before starting any nutritional plan and listen to your body.   Finally, run away from your personal trainer in Chicago if he suggests supplements.  Whole foods are always your best options.