Detox is term that is used often after ushering in a New Year. There is a lot of information on the Internet on how to detox your body to live a healthier life. Some programs involve a 24-hour regimen, some involve a few days, some involve purchasing products, powders, drinks, etc. Often the goal is to get rid of toxins in your liver and your gut. Sometimes a detox program involves a commitment to follow a specific diet.

When you are done with your detox program, how will you restock your kitchen and pack it with foods that nourish rather than harm if you do not know how to read a food label? Well, it’s easy when you follow this 10-step guideline on how to read a Nutrition Facts Label:

  1. First, take note of “Serving Size” and number of servings per package. This way you know exactly what the rest of the Nutrition Facts Label is representing.
  2. Since Nutrition Fact Labels are based on a 2000 calorie diet, you can compare any label using % Daily Value or %DV
    • 20% DV is Excellent, 10% DV is Good and 5% DV is Poor
    • You do not want an excellent source of sodium
    • You do not want an excellent source of saturated fat
    • If you are looking for a snack to keep you full until you can eat a full meal, look for something with a good or excellent source of fiber an protein.
  3. Next, check the ingredients and look for foods that have no more than 3-5 ingredients.
  4. Still want the product and it seems healthy even though it has more than 5 ingredients?
    • If you can’t pronounce some ingredients, put it back on the shelf. Your body deserves better!
  5. If you don’t recognize something in the ingredients list, and you don’t have it in your own pantry and wouldn’t use it in a recipe – like Polysorbate 80 for instance – put it back on the shelf. It is simply not worth eating!
  6. Look at what makes up the 1st three ingredients?
    • Every ingredient list states ingredients based on the amount in that food. The most abundant ingredient is first and the others follow in descending order by weight.
    • Sometimes companies get tricky and use several names for sugar: brown rice syrup, fruit extract, honey, etc These add up! You could very well say that sugar is a top ingredient.
  7. Note the amount of sugar, which goes by many aliases. Sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are well over 60 names for sugar, with names that you might not recognize like maltose or maltodextrin.
    • Many of the newer labels have “Added Sugar” on the Nutrition Facts Label under “Carbohydrate”. Make sure the %DV for “Added Sugar” is a “Poor Source” or 5% DV or less.
  8. Eliminate unhealthy fats.
    • Avoid highly refined cooking oils such as corn, soy, margarine or shortening. (Often found in frozen foods that have been fried)
    • Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans-fat), which has been declared “Not safe for consumption” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  9. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
    • Avoid foods with artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, Sucralose and Sugar alcohols (sugars that end with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol).
    • Stevia may be better than aspartame but only the whole plant extract, not Pure Via and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of Stevia. Use whole plant extract Stevia sparingly. 
    • A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that is rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, artificial sweeteners can make you feel hungrier, lower your metabolism, create gas, increase inflammation and store belly fat – so avoid when possible.
  10. Stear clear of questionable ingredients.
    • Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavors and high fructose corn syrup. These ingredients have no place in a healthy diet.

Knowing how to read a food label empowers you to make the correct food choices and maximize your health. Here’s to 2020 – make it your year for health, wellness and fitness!