The skinny girl's secrets to reading nutrition labels

People who read nutrition labels consume fewer calories.
photo: US Federal Government

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, people who read the nutrition labels on packaged foods consume 164 fewer calories per day than those who choose not to read them.

So what are their secrets?  What, exactly, are they reading?  What do they look for?  Just who are these wondrous women whose food knowledge renders them the beautiful skinny girls that you and I both aim to be?

I am by no means an expert when it comes to nutrition.  Just like you, I'm a woman looking to lead a healthy lifestyle and provide healthy food options for my family.  However, I've learned some things about food shopping, food prep, and food consumption over the years.  And I must admit I'm obsessive about reading nutrition labels.  Here's my skinny girl's grocery shopping secrets:

  1. When purchasing bread, make sure one slice contains at least 2 grams of fiber.  I usually aim to buy a loaf with 3 grams of fiber per slice.  If your kids prefer soft breads, try Nickles 100% Whole Wheat bread.  It is very soft, yummy, and has 3 grams of fiber per slice.  (Hint: check the serving size.  Some manufacturers use a serving size of 2 slices to make it seem like there is more fiber in the bread than there actually is).
  2. Only buy cereal with 8 grams of sugar per serving or less.  You will find this somewhat difficult, but it is doable with a bit of perseverance.  In addition, try to buy a cereal that has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  Some of my family's choices hit the mark here, and some are close (which is good enough for me).  Check the labels for Cheerios, Puffins, Kashi and Special K cereals.  (Hint: many cereals that are very high in fiber have loads of sugar.  Look for a cereal that balances out the need for fiber with the need to keep sugar levels low).
  3. Have you ever read the nutrition label of a yogurt tub?  You'll find that many yogurts are loaded with extra sugar.  Avoid fruit flavored and fat-free yogurts for this reason.  Instead, buy a large tub of low-fat vanilla yogurt and a smaller tub of plain yogurt.  Mix them together when the kids aren't looking.  Serve with fresh berries and granola on top.
  4. Frozen dinners and canned soup tend to have excessive amounts of sodium.  Keep in mind that The National Committe on Prevention, Detection, Evalulation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends Americans not exceed 2,400 mg of sodium per day.  Any can with 1,700 mg of sodium in it (yes, they are out there) is logically, just too much sodium for one meal.  Always opt for packages labeled "low sodium."  Look carefully to see how many servings are in the packages, and avoid any food item that comes close to the upper limits of daily sodium intake recommendations.
And of course, dear reader, the fewer packaged foods you buy, the healthier your diet is likely to be.  Buy foods that don't need nutrition labels (fruit, vegetables) whenever possible.  See you at the grocery store!  

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