1. <b>Read labels to lose weight</b>
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Research shows being an avid label reader is good for your waistline. In fact, women who consult food labels weigh almost <a href="https://www.chatelaine.com/living/lose-nine-pounds-by-doing-this-simple-task/" target="_blank">nine pounds less than those who don’t</a>, reveals a study in the journal <em>Agricultural Economics</em>. Why? Experts speculate those who pay attention to the label details are more likely to make healthy choices. Just be sure to read both the nutrition facts and the ingredients list, says Toronto dietitian <a href="http://rosieschwartz.com/" target="_blank">Rosie Schwartz</a>. You want to know the totals, but you also want to know exactly what’s contributing to them!
2. <b>Rank the facts</b>
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Not sure which of the 13 nutrients listed on labels matter most? Make it personal, says <a href="http://fuelingwithfood.com/words-from-our-dietitian/" target="_blank">Tristaca Curley</a>, a dietitian in Kelowna, B.C. “If you’re trying to <a href="https://www.chatelaine.com/health/wellness/the-mayo-clinic-on-reducing-your-risk-of-heart-disease-and-breast-cancer/" target="_blank">lower your risk of heart disease</a>, zero in on the amount of saturated fat. If you have diabetes, look at the sugar and fibre amounts first.” Simply looking for the healthiest product? Then the three most important numbers are calories, fibre and sodium, she says. “Foods high in fibre help you feel full longer because they’re digested slowly, while foods high in sodium lead to high blood pressure and water retention.” Look for items with more than 4 g of fibre per serving, and the less sodium, the better!
3. <b>Ignore daily values</b>
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<p>Shocking but true: Some information on food labels is based on science from back in the ’80s! Schwartz recently discovered that percent daily value (% DV) figures are not up to date with Health Canada’s current recommendations. For instance, the recommended daily intake for vitamin D today is 600 IU, but the daily percentage listed on food labels is based on 200 IU. So what does this mean? “A label will tell you that one cup of milk provides 45 percent of your daily vitamin D, which suggests that drinking about two cups gives you all you need,” says Schwartz. “But you’re actually getting only a third.”</p><p><strong>Bottom line:</strong> Don’t use the % DV column to track your daily nutrient intake — Health Canada says it’s just there to help you compare products. Instead, look at the actual amounts of nutrients listed. And remember this trick: 5% DV or less is a little, 15% DV or more is a lot.</p>
4. <b>Size up the serving size</b>
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<p>You may be getting more bread than you bargained for — as well as calories, sodium, sugar and carbs. Why? Because serving sizes on labels are established by manufacturers and aren’t regulated. For instance, thanks to portion distortion, individual slices of bread are getting bigger. “One slice used to be 30 g,” says Schwartz. “Now we’re seeing one slice getting up to 45 g or more, meaning eating two slices is actually like eating three.” And don’t be misled by a product’s package size. Take a ready-made container of soup: It’s marketed as a single portion for a meal on the go, but sometimes the serving size listed is for only half the can — so you’re getting two meals in one (and double the calories!).</p><p><strong>Bottom line:</strong> Size matters. Don’t assume the size of the product or package is equal to the serving size listed on the label. Always check “servings per container.” </p>
5. <b>Look for disguised sugar</b>
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<p>Did you know there are more than 20 words manufacturers can use for sugar without actually saying sugar? Don’t be seduced by the (un)sweet talk! When scanning ingredient lists, pay attention to syrup, sweetener and anything ending in -ose. For foods without much naturally occurring sugar (like bread, cereal, crackers and canned goods), leave them on the shelf if sugar or any of its synonyms are listed in the first three ingredients. And go for items with less than 8 g of sugar per serving.</p><div> </div>
6. <b>Beware of buzzwords</b>
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<p>“All-natural,” “gluten-free,” “low-carb,” “healthy choice” — these are all flashy (not to mention impossible to regulate) claims that distract us from the true nutrition information, says Schwartz. Don’t get sucked in by the packaging. Do your research, and always look at the information and the ingredients too.</p><p><b>Believe some of the hype<br /></b>A few nutritional promises are worth paying attention to. Here are some to look for:<br />u261b Low-Fat = 3 g of fat or less per serving.<br />u261b Low-Sodium = 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.<br />u261b No Sodium = Less than 5 mg per serving.<br />u261b No Sugar = Less than 0.5 g of sugar and less than 5 calories per serving.<br />u261b Low-Cal = 40 calories or fewer per serving.<br />u261b High-Fibre = At least 4 g of fibre per serving.</p>
7. <b>Cut out the junk</b>
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<p>Sometimes, less is more. “The fewer ingredients listed, the better,” says Schwartz. A good rule of thumb is to stick to products with ingredients you recognize and can easily pronounce.</p><p><strong>When scanning the label, steer clear of these words:<i><br /></i></strong><b>Partially hydrogenated oil: </b>Drop the package! This means trans fats.</p><p><b>Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): </b>It’s a preservative used to prevent fat and/or oil from spoiling. BHA is found in gum, butter, meats, cereals, snack foods — even cosmetics and food packaging.</p><p><b>Enriched flour and inulin: </b>The labels of high-fibre foods will ideally say “whole grain,” and not “enriched wheat flour” or “inulin” (a fibre-containing ingredient). Neither offers the same benefits as a whole grain.</p><p><b>Sodium nitrates and nitrites: </b>Salty preservatives found in processed meats, like cold cuts, hot dogs and bacon.</p>