Nutrition is the hot topic on everyone’s mind, it’s a big topic so we wanted to start with the basics. Lucy loves Fitness helps explain how to read food labels…
The best approach to nutrition is to eat food that you have prepared from scratch, include protein in every meal and as many fruit and vegetables as possible. That sounds great in a world where you live in a kitchen, so let’s be real and admit that we all buy pre-packaged food sometimes.
When you buy packaged food you need to check what’s in it, so I want to talk you through the basics of reading a nutrition label. You need to be aware of the danger zones below! After reading this article you can make better choices when grabbing food on the go.
- Serving size and number of servings per pack.
If you pick up a share bag of crisps, for example, it might have 5 servings in it. You might read the nutritional value for 1 serving, only intend to have 1 serving, and hence track that. However, how many times do you actually weigh out 1 serving and eat only that? The difference between what you think you’ve consumed and what you have actually consumed is a danger zone.
- Low Protein content
If this is your first time reading labels I would prioritise looking at Energy, Protein and Fat. If the food is full of carbs, fat, sugar, salt and is high in energy, but not much protein, I would avoid it, it’s not adding much nutritional value to your plan. Think high protein.
Why should you be including protein in every meal when on a weight loss plan?
- When you’re reducing your calories and increasing your activity levels (creating a calorie deficit) you’ll be losing weight, yet that will be a combination of body fat and muscle. You need to protect your muscle, so eating protein will help maintain it, and actually increase it when combined with resistance training.
- “High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolise, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them.
- They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time.”1
- Don’t be fooled by ‘low fat’ options
The natural assumption would be that reduced-fat or low-fat versions of food are healthier. However, if the original source of fat is being removed it is likely to be replaced with sugar or salt. “Read the nutrition information to compare sugar and fat content on the original and the reduced-fat product.
It’s worth checking salt too, as “low-fat” or “low-sugar” options can be higher in salt. If the “lower fat” version is not much lower in energy (kJ or kcal), it might be better to simply have a smaller amount of the original product”2
Let’s look at the labels
This diagram is actually an Australian food label, however I have included it because is very detailed and tells you what each ingredient means.
In the UK + Ireland the same rules apply to the detail on the diagram above, though the labels below are what you’ll see on food products in the shops in the UK and Ireland. The additional information here is the percentage value against the recommended intake for an average adult.
On the front of the food packaging you will also see this traffic light system, which acts as a quick reference guide. “Colour-coded nutritional information, as shown in the image above, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.”3
- Red means high
- Amber means medium
- Green means low
- Start making this a new habit today, when you go to the shops later and pick something up, turn it over and start reading the label. It could really change the way you eat, and the results you get from your plan.
Lucy is a fully qualified Personal Trainer living in Sydney, fitness has always been a huge part of her life and she’s tried most sports – dancing, swimming, surfing, rock climbing, pole dancing and triathlons though as she entered her thirties she noticed how what she was doing before wasn’t getting the same results so she got into Bodybuilding. This taught her so much about discipline, mental strength, changing body composition through resistance training and nutrition.
Lucy has competed in 2 seasons of Natural Bikini Competitions in Australia, and has gone through a strict preparation process twice to get ready for stage. Her focus now is on helping women to learn how to change their lifestyle for the long term, through making better nutrition decisions and implementing results driven exercise into their weekly routine.