We have done a lot of sampling events. We set up a table with lots of samples and let people taste the products we sell in our vending machines and markets. It’s a lot of fun to see the excitement when someone tastes a really delicious snack that is also healthier than the candy bar they usually have. We like it even more, though, when we see someone pick up a sample and read the nutrition and ingredients label. Someone who reads and understands food labels really appreciates healthy food and can tell the difference.
What’s the most important part of a nutrition label? Well, seems a lot of people go straight to the calorie count. Frequently that’s a good place to start, but don’t stop there. Look at the rest of the label. Specifically, spend some time reading the ingredients list. Until you’ve really studied the ingredients you don’t know what the calories, fat and sugar numbers on that label really mean. Not all calories are created equal.
So, look at all those numbers with your diet goals in mind, but also read the ingredients. If there’s a sugar or sweetener like corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup up in the first few ingredients then you should see a red flag that confirms that high calorie count being a problem. You also might see lots of grams of sugar that tells you there’s a problem.
One item that throws people off, though, is nuts. Nuts are extremely nutrient dense and one of nature’s miracle foods. They’re used in bars a lot for that reason. If you look at the ingredients list and see nuts listed as the very first ingredient then that’s different than an item with a similar calorie count with chocolate or sugar as the first ingredient and nuts somewhere down below in the list. So, don’t just look for a snack with an “OK” calorie count. Choose the snack that also has great ingredients.
Other things to be aware of in ingredients lists are whether the flour is from whole grains or if the product has hydrogenated fats which contain trans fats. If you have any food allergies you probably already know to scour the label for any source of ingredients that would hurt you.
You’ll get a much better idea what you’re eating if you know what’s on the label. So start with all the numbers on the nutrition label, but also be sure to carefully study the ingredients list. There’s some important info there that will arm you with the ability to make a good decision. If there’s ever an item that you’re not sure of search the manufacturer’s website for nutrition information and always feel free to call us about the products we sell. We’d be happy to help you find the nutrition and ingredient information you need to make an informed decision.