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How to Read Food Labels

How to Read Food Labels

Any time you pick up a jar or container of food, you’re sure to see a complex-looking label on the back. It’s the nutrition label, describing the ingredients and nutritional information for the product, which is required by law to inform consumers. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how to read the label correctly, the provided information will be of little use.

Nutritional labels on food offer helpful information about what you’re eating. Whether you’re on a diet, have food allergies, or are just paying closer attention to what you’re eating, knowing how to read food labels is a must.

Here’s everything you should know about a nutritional label, from top to bottom.

Serving information

The first thing you’ll see at the top of a nutritional label is the serving information. This tells you what the average serving size is, as well as how many servings are in the container.

Serving sizes vary based on the product. For cooked pasta, it might be one cup, but for sweets, it might be two cookies or pieces of candy. These sizes are loosely based on the average amount people eat of that particular food item.  It’s important to pay attention to serving size, because the rest of the nutritional information is almost always based on one serving, not the entire container. So, if you eat two servings in one sitting, you’ll be getting twice the nutrient content and calories listed on the label.

Some packages include nutritional information based on the full container in addition to or instead of a single serving. Each label will state whether its information is based on a serving or the whole container.

Calories

Below serving size, you’ll find calorie information. This provides the total calorie count per serving. This section may also show how many calories are from fat, which is important if you’re monitoring your fat intake.

Nutrient breakdown

Next, you’ll find a breakdown of the nutrients present in the food. This includes macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  The fats and carbohydrates sections may also list out the types of each, such as saturated fat or fiber and added sugar. Knowing the difference between these types of macronutrients and what they do is important.

Sodium and cholesterol are also usually included alongside fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Micronutrients are listed below the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

The total amount of each nutrient per serving, calculated in grams, is listed next to the nutrient. Next to that, there’s a percentage. This is the Percent Daily Value (%DV) for the nutrient.  Percent DV tells you what percentage one serving of that food provides of the recommended daily intake based on the government’s nutritional recommendations. For example, if the %DV for protein is 10 percent, it means one serving makes up 10 percent of the protein you should be eating each day.  A low %DV is five percent, and a high % DV is 20 or more. “Low” or “high” could be good or bad, depending on the nutrient and your general dietary choices.

It’s usually recommended you do not exceed 100 percent daily intake of some nutrients, like saturated fats. However, you should aim to reach 100 percent or more of other nutrients, such as vitamin D and fiber.

Percent DV is based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet and the average recommended value of each nutrient so if you eat fewer or more calories each day these percentages won’t be correct.

Ingredients

Finally, the nutritional label may contain an ingredients list. All food products containing more than one ingredient are required to have an ingredients list.

Ingredients are listed in descending order based on weight. Usually, the first ingredients listed are the most prevalent. Take a close look at the first few ingredients, since these make up the majority of what you’re eating.

It’s also helpful to know how to recognize the “sneaky” names for things like added sugar, which may appear several times in an ingredients list. There are at least 56 different names for sugar that appear frequently in ingredient lists.  Here are a few of the more common ones…barley malt, corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, lactose, fructose, maltose, mannitol, maltodextrin, maple syrup.

Careful observation goes hand-in-hand with education

Understanding how to read nutritional labels means little if you don’t understand how different macronutrients and micronutrients affect your body. Consult your doctor or a dietician to understand what amount of fats, proteins, carbs, and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

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Staying on track with Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Staying on track with Intermittent Fasting (IF)

There are a lot of diet and eating plans out there. One of the most popular and successful is intermittent fasting (IF), but it’s not a traditional diet. Instead, it’s considered an eating plan or “eating pattern,” because it focuses on when you eat instead of what or how much you eat.

IF can be tricky to navigate if you’re new to the idea. Fortunately, once you get the hang of the pattern and find tips and tricks that work for you, you can easily make it part of your daily health routine.

What is intermittent fasting?

IF is an eating plan that revolves around periods of fasting, or not eating, followed by specific periods of eating. During periods of fasting, you’ll eat nothing or just a very small amount of food. IF is often simple, healthy, and sustainable in the long term—which is why we recommend IF as part of the LOVIDIA Way.

There are many ways to do IF, but the most common method is fasting for 16 hours, followed by eating within a period of eight hours, known as the 16:8 method.

The goal of IF is to force your body to rely on stored energy (like fat) for certain parts of the day. This helps promote weight loss and more.

When you follow an IF plan, your body undergoes a few changes. Your stored body fat becomes more easily accessible, meaning it’s burned off faster. Your cells also begin a cycle of intense repair.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

The biggest benefit of IF is weight loss, for a few reasons. First, IF can help you reduce your caloric intake because you are not eating at all times of the day. When you reduce calories, you naturally reduce the amount of weight you can gain. Second, the changes your body goes through make it easier to burn off stored fat for energy. This means that your fat stores deplete faster, resulting in weight loss.

Beyond weight loss, research shows IF may have many other health benefits that promote life-long health. For example, it may help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve heart and brain health.

Staying on track with IF

Although IF is relatively simple, sticking to the eating plan can be challenging. Hunger pains and tempting snacks offered outside of your eating period may force you to break your fast. And, once it’s broken, getting back into the routine can be even more difficult. LOVIDIA can help you succeed with IF by taking the edge off hunger during fasting periods.  Here are some other useful tips to help you stick with IF:

  • Plan ahead: IF is much easier if you take time to plan ahead and work around your fasting windows. Plan to fast when you are most likely to not eat (like when you are sleeping). Many people eat from 1-9 p.m. and fast through the night and into the morning. This period allows you to eat a late lunch and normal dinner, which can accommodate social plans.
  • Plan around your lifestyle: You can also adjust your fasting window to match your lifestyle. If you’re an early riser, you may want to make the eating period earlier to accommodate when you will be awake. Or, if you go to the gym at a certain time, you can plan to break your fast before then, so you have energy.
  • Adjust the method: You also have the freedom to adjust the length of fasting and eating periods to match your needs. If the 16:8 method doesn’t work for you, another IF method like 12-hour fasts or alternating days might work better. Starting small and working your way up to longer fasting periods may be easier if you’re new to the eating plan.
  • Remember to drink: Fasting does not extend to non-caloric or low-calorie beverages like water, coffee and tea. If you’re feeling hungry, try drinking a cup of something. Just make sure you’re not adding sugar or creamer that contains calories!
  • Distract yourself: If you’re starting to feel hunger settling in, you might be more likely to focus on the hunger and even break your fast. To help keep your mind off food, find things to distract you, such as work, a hobby, a brief walk, or light exercise. Some people find meditation beneficial in clearing the mind and pushing off feelings of hunger.
  • Make healthy choices: Some people give up on IF early on because they aren’t seeing results just from fasting. Remember, making healthy food choices is still an important part of IF. Loading up on junk food and lots of calories during your eating period may cause you to keep weight on and feel worse. Eat nutrient-dense foods to keep you fuller for longer and prevent nutrient deficiencies during your fasting period.

Fasting is a great way to get your health back on track in more ways than one. Just make sure you’re sticking to a fasting schedule and being smart about what you eat. Keep yourself accountable and your dedication is bound to pay off!

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Jennifer R.

Jennifer R.

My relationship with food is still a work in progress, but I am beginning to take control of how I feel on the inside. I recently began meditating, making conscious food choices, listening to audio books, but since starting Lovidia, it has helped as a catalyst and assistant with my self-control. With Lovidia, I can say I am growing on so many internal levels that it’s impacting me externally, and it shows!

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Danielle G.

Danielle G.

Our health and wellness journeys are unique but at the core of every successful transformation is a loving relationship with our minds and bodies! Lovidia has supported my wellness journey by providing me with the time and space to really connect with my hunger cues – it lets me recognize when I need to fuel my body with food or when I’m in need of a few moments of purposeful reflection because I’m confusing hunger with an emotion, like boredom.

@healthygypsyfw