Did you know that less than half of the population knows how to read a food label? That fact scares us! Food labels tell us vital information about the things we are putting in our body, so we really want you all to not fall into that percentage and be more aware about your food. We know that food labels can be very confusing, especially when you are trying to eat on a low-carb diet. Well, fear food labels no more–we are here to help! Let’s conquer the food label.
When you are on a low-carb diet, the first thing to do is look at the amount of carbs in the product. Underneath the bolded total carbohydrate label, there are typically a couple sub-labels like fiber and sugars. These two ingredients (along with a few others) make up the total carbohydrate count. For our program, we subtract the fiber count from the total carb amount in order to get the net carbs. Let’s look at the food label for Quest Bar’s Cookies and Cream nutrition bar. If we look at the total carbohydrate count for a bar, we see that there are 22 grams. At first glance, this seems like a lot. However if we take the amount of fiber into consideration, we see that there are only 5 net carbs. That’s not too bad. But what makes up those 5 carbs you ask? We see below the dietary fiber count that there is one gram of sugar and 2 grams of erythritol (a sugar alcohol). But there are still 2 grams unaccounted for. These two mysterious grams are from starch. It is important to know that starch isn’t listed on nutrition labels. So if there are any missing carbs not listed on a food label, most likely they are starches. The amount of sugar, sugar alcohol, and starch in the product is important to know since these affect your blood sugar. The more of these sugars, the higher the blood glucose level!
For low-carb diets we don’t solely focus on the amount of carbs in a food product, but we also monitor the amount of protein as well. Protein is important because it is one of the basic building blocks of our body and makes up our muscles, connective tissue, hair, skin, etc. Since protein is so essential to our body’s composition, we are constantly using it up. Thus, it is important to replenish it. When on a low-carb diet, we need to make sure we get a hefty amount of protein in our bodies. At GreenLite Medicine, we recommend the average person intake at least 70 grams of protein per day. Let’s look back at the Cookies and Cream Quest Bar. Each bar contains 21 grams of protein. That’s a pretty good amount for a bar. Taking into consideration the relatively low amount of net carbs and the high amount of protein, this Quest Bar is a handy nutritional grab-n-go breakfast or snack! Just make sure to drink a lot of water with it.
Servings per Container
When reading a food label, it is important to look at the serving size and servings per container. A serving size is the amount that the company thinks an average person will eat of that product and the servings per container is how many servings are in that package. To give an example, let’s look at the online food label for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese we grabbed from their website. It says there are 48 grams of carbs per serving. Now when we look to see the serving size, we see that one serving is a measly 1 cup, and when we look to see how many servings there are in the box, we see that there are 3 servings. When we do the math, that turns out to be 144 grams of carbs in the box. That’s a lot! Many companies will try and trick us by putting low amounts of fat and carbs and making the serving sizes small in order to make their product seem healthier than it actually is, but now we know their tactics.