With the recent announcement about nutrition facts labels possibly getting their first major facelift in 20 years, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my thoughts on nutrition labels in general. First of all, I almost never read them. I used to read them though. In fact, it used to be the only thing I looked at on the back of the package, but these days I find MUCH more value in reading the ingredient label instead.
Reading the ingredient label is the number one way to know what’s in your packaged food and how processed it is.
I have never been one to count calories, fat grams and the like, and one of the reasons for that is – and hopefully we can all agree – not all calories or fat grams are created equal! Please don’t let anyone try to tell you an avocado is just as “bad for you” as a donut just because they both have 21 grams of fat.
Same goes for calories – a pack of Skittles has about the same number of calories as 2 cups of organic grapes. Clearly those two are not even close to being equivalent when it comes to eating whole foods for good health. I would also say that considering grams of naturally occurring sugars vs. added sugars falls into the same category as well. And these are all the “facts” pointed out to us on the Nutrition Facts Label!
5 Reasons I Don’t Read Nutrition Facts Labels:
- Prominently featured stats like calories, fat grams, and sugars are not all created equal (as demonstrated above).
- Tracking those calories, fat grams, protein, etc. most definitely takes the “fun” out of eating.
- I prefer to stop eating when I feel full (granted, not always an easy task) to know when I’ve had enough food. And if you do this in addition to eating a variety of whole foods I believe everything else will fall into place – no counting or label checking required.
- The vitamin section can be incredibly misleading. A loaf of bread made with factory enriched white flour can “appear” to have more vitamins than a loaf of bread made with whole wheat flour, and that’s because the vitamins featured are not even close to showing you the whole picture.
- The stats highlighted tell me absolutely NOTHING about how highly processed the packaged food is.
One Sweet Exception
Now with that said – there is one “sweet” exception to all of this. There is a pretty major change proposed to the one part of the nutrition label that I do look at on occasion (a change I have actually been wanting for some time). This change has to do with sugar. Sugar itself is not necessarily the devil, but the quantity in which it’s typically consumed is a problem when it comes to our health. And it’s easy to overlook because sugar is no longer just reserved for sweets but rather added to everything these days including bread, crackers, yogurt, salad dressings, cereals, beverages, and so on.
So on occasion, if I do see some form of added sugar spelled out on the ingredient label I like to know exactly how much it contains. For example, I wanted to purchase some smoked salmon the other day and was surprised to see brown sugar on the ingredient list. But when I looked at the grams of sugar per serving it was less than 1 gram, so I knew it contained very little sugar (and therefore I purchased it).
But the “Sugars” listing on the current Nutrition Facts Label does have one major flaw. If you were considering buying a product like flavored yogurt, which is made from milk obviously and therefore has naturally occurring sugar, there is no way to separate how many of the grams of sugar are from the milk versus the refined added sugar to give the yogurt it’s flavor. So that’s why I am super excited to see this proposed change that I would refer to on occasion…
I’d love to hear your thoughts on packaged food labels (and the proposed changes as well). Do any of you look at the Nutrition Facts labels? If so, what are you looking out for?