Label 101

This is a space where I jot down 5 nutrition-focused tips each week. I am no expert, but I love to read about nutrition. Most of these tips are the ways how I try to live the advice of the professionals. Let’s start with the basic ones this week. I am going to call it LABEL 101.

  • Read the ingredients: I know, this seems like the most obvious tip ever. But, when you are grocery shopping, it is the most important one as well. The first rule of thumb is: the first or second ingredient should be a whole food (whole grain, a vegetable, fruit, lentil etc).


  • Fewer ingredients the better: This is the second rule of thumb. I avoid it altogether, if the ingredient list is longer than the box itself. Less ingredients means more chances of them being natural. I buy low-fat items instead of many nonfat ones for this very reason. Another way to look at it: if one or more ingredient has a name that gives your tongue a workout (gloxysomininite or alike), put the box down. This is the easiest way to reduce your intake of the artificial sweeteners, additives, flavor enhancers, dyes, chemicals, preservatives and the rest of the bad stuff.


  • Location, location, location (of the sugar on ingredient list): I try to avoid processed sugar in the first place (more about that later). But, if that’s not possible, I check that it is not listed as the first or second ingredient. Plus, beware of the many names the processed sugar can bear. High-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, invert sugar, maltose, sucrose all mean SUGAR.


  • Go natural: This is again an obvious nutrition tip. Closer the ingredients are to their natural state, the better. Oil shouldn’t be listed as partially-hydrogenated and whole wheat flour should be just that, instead of being enriched all-purpose flour.


  • Nutrition bang for the buck: Does it have at least 1 gm. of fiber in each serving? What about protein? Is this food nutritionally balanced? If not, what would I pair it with, so that it becomes a complete meal? Is this a good source of antioxidants? In a nutshell, what will it give me besides taste? And, please don’t get me wrong. I buy few things just for the taste. But, thinking about the ‘nutrition bang for the buck’ in the long run is not a bad habit.

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