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Nutritional labels can be confusing


October 4, 2017 | View PDF

File Photo The nutritional labels on foods can be confusing, making it difficult to know if what you are reading on the label is a positive or negative for your health.

Let's face it, nutritional labels are confusing. It can be hard to tell if what you are looking at on the label is a positive or negative for your health.

Fact or Fiction: Low Fat is better for you.

Fiction. For a long time, we believed that low fat would help us lose weight. Turns out to make low fat food taste better it's loaded up with sugar or even worse, fake sugars. This actually leads to weight gain and glucose control issues. When in doubt, pick the regular fat version of a product.

Nutrition Labels – Fats

There are 4 types of fats. Saturated, Trans, Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. The healthier fats are the unsaturated fats; the mono and poly, while the unhealthier ones are the saturated and trans fat. All fat has 9 calories per gram.

Fact or Fiction: Sodium is good for you.

Fact. While too much sodium is bad for you, people do need approximately 2,300 mg per day. If you are cutting out processed foods and moving to a cleaner whole foods diet, you should monitor your sodium level and probably be adding some sea salt to your day. When you are low in sodium you can feel dizzy, light headed or have a headache.

Nutrition Labels – Sodium

Aim for about 2,300 mg per day. The amount of meals and snacks you are eating will determine what percent of sodium you want in each. If you eat three meals and three snacks per day, shoot for about 200 mg per snack and 500 mg per meal.

Fact or Fiction: All sugar is bad.

Fiction. The tricky thing about grams of sugars in our food is that some could be natural. A jar of salsa could have a few grams of sugar per serving when it's from the tomatoes and peppers. When you look at the sugar count look below at the ingredients list to see if sugar is an added ingredient. If it's added it's a product you will want to limit or avoid and eat in moderation.

Nutrition Labels – Sugar

Sugar has over 50 names and is the only item on the nutritional panel without an RDA (recommended daily amount) because there is not a recommended amount. Newer studies are suggesting less than 100-150 calories per day come from added sugar. This includes those hidden under new names. Sugar is one of the trickiest items on the nutrition label so keep an eye on these items and always read the ingredient list.

Learning what's in your products will take additional time at the store. If it's overwhelming, start with one meal. Check all the ingredients for your family's breakfast foods. Once you have mastered that meal and have your go to items move onto another meal. It's time well spent as deciphering what is in your food is vital to your long-term health and wellbeing.

Emily Countryman is a board certified health coach and owner of Ideal Wellness located at 2639 172nd St. NE Suite 104 in Smokey Point/Marysville She can be reached online at


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