Overview of a food label

Based upon the knowledge you will gain in this section, on how to read a food label, you will be better able to make healthier food choices when grocery shopping. It is important to avoid the claims listed on the front of food boxes, always read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel. If you have heart disease avoid products that contain animal flesh or animal byproducts, edible oils, and processed foods containing fully and partially hydrogenated oils as these products contain small but significant amounts of trans fat. All animal product contain cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat in varying amounts.

Always examine the label carefully. If you see words like whey or gelatin within the ingredient list, these are actually words which signify that animal products are present in the foods. To make your search easier look for allergens such as milk and eggs listed on the label as this can make it easier to find animal products in processed foods.

Make sure the calories from fat are under 20%, avoid cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat in foods. Make sure the food does not contain oil, of any kind. Avoid sugar within the first few ingredients and purchase whole grain foods. Also make sure the sodium content of the food products you purchase are close to a 1 to 1 ratio; sodium to calories.

As you begin to read labels you will find that many foods you would never expect contain products of animal origin. Be sure to inspect the label carefully and never trust the front of the package or box. Products may be labeled as fat free or even “Now Trans Fat Free” but these claims do not necessarily mean the product is fat free or trans fat free. A claim of 0g fat or 0g trans fat on the nutrition facts panel does not mean that the product is fat free or trans fat free. The amount of fat and trans fat may be lower than what is needed to be declared by law, .5g or less.

Foods to avoid: all animal-based foods, tropical oils, and processed oils. Avoid processed foods containing oil and highly processed foods containing excessive amounts of fat and sugar.

Foods to consume: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, limited amounts of nuts and seeds.

Knowing how to read labels is important when trying to lose weight, and potentially reverse and take control of cardiovascular disease and other conditions such as diabetes. Being able to read labels is critically important. Learning how to read a label allows you to make choices about what foods enter your body. You have the power to control the progression of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, or type II diabetes, among many other chronic diseases. Knowing that you have control over the foods you purchase and knowing how these foods affect the way the disease progresses is such a valuable lesson. Start by changing what is on the end of our fork and spoon and you can potential improve your overall health.

Next Steps:

Visit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 21-DAY KICK START which provides 21 days’ worth of meal plans to make the transition to a whole foods plant-based diet easier.

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