Decoding food labels can be a daunting task. Though each section of the grocery store presents a different challenge, there are certain constants that apply to most food labels. The best choices are low in fat, sodium and calories and high in fiber and nutrients.
First, choose food that is trans fat free and does not list hydrogenated oil among the ingredients. Secondly, look for the sodium (salt) content and keep below 500 milligrams per serving. Frozen meals, convenience foods, and sauces are often high in sodium.
Take time to read food labels to ensure that you are making healthy choices. Calories on the label can be deceiving because they are usually listed per serving, and a package of food may have multiple servings.
Fruits and Vegetables Fresh produce is always good to stock up on. When going for canned fruit, pick lite or juice-packed instead of fruit packed in syrup. With juices, look for 100 percent juice on the label. For canned vegetables, look for no salt-added products and rinse them. Frozen fruits and vegetables are stellar choices since they are flash frozen after harvest and generally do not have added sugar and sodium.
Breads Choose breads that have whole grain as the first ingredient and have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Cereals and Starches Look for cereal products that list whole grain among the first 3 ingredients and have less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Brown rice is a better choice than white as it has more fiber. Other whole grain options are bulgur, quinoa and oats.
Meats If there is a label, look for less than 5 grams of total fat and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Good choices include seafood, white chicken without the skin, pork tenderloin or any lean red meat. When cooking, choose methods without adding extra fat, such as grilling, broiling and baking.
Dairy Case Fat free is the healthiest choice. When buying dairy products with fat, look for yogurt, cheese and milk with less than 4 grams of total fat and less than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. The body needs calcium for proper functioning, and the recommendation is to consume three servings of dairy products per day.