It’s easier than gassing up a spaceship!
Reading a food label – with all those scary words and numbers – is not as alien as you might think. The basics for understanding a nutrition label are important for every earthling to know and we have created some straightforward rules that every life form can follow.
Rule 1 : Food is fuel. The body burns food to live.
If you think of food as fuel for the body, that confusing nutrition label becomes much simpler. To explain food labels better, we will follow our alien friend as he gasses up his spaceship.
If this seems like a silly example, that’s because it is. The point is, that food should be thought of as fuel for the body; the same way a spaceship burns gas as it zips in between the planets, the body burns food as you go about your busy day.
Rule 2 : Fuel is burned, this creates energy, or calories.
The amount of energy obtained from digesting a set amount of food is called a calorie. You see! Understanding calories is not as complicated as you thought!
The longer the trip through space, the more fuel, or energy, the spaceship needs. In a similar way, the more active you are, the more calories you burn.
Rule 3 : Know how much is in ONE serving.
Gas is measured by the gallon, but food is a little more complicated than fuel — it comes in different shapes, sizes and containers. To understand how much energy the food you are eating contains, you must first know how big the serving size is. Thankfully, this is one of the first things a food label will list. You will be surprised how small a serving size really is! Serving size is typically provided in cups or ounces, so measuring the food you plan to eat is the only way to know exactly how many calories it contains.
Rule 4 : The calories listed are per serving.
The calorie listing is important because it tells you how much energy you get from eating one serving of food. Do not forget that food is fuel. Think of calories per serving the same way our alien considers how many miles he can travel with one gallon of gas.
Since one serving of food contains a set number of calories and the calories listed on the label are PER SERVING, if you have multiple servings, you have to multiply the calories on the label by the number of servings to know the total calories you have eaten.
Rule : Know the type of fuel (calories) you are burning.
There are three main ingredients in food that provide energy — fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Thankfully, all three are listed on a food label. If you add all three of these ingredients together, you can calculate the total calories (but the calories are already listed, so you can skip the math).
Foods have varying amounts of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. When our alien chooses his gas, he can choose from regular or premium grade — both are still gas that his spaceship will use for energy — but the concentrations are different. The same is true for food, only there are WAY more than two food choices.
Rule 6 : How fatty is your fuel?
Fat is the most concentrated ingredient in food. This means that a large amount of calories are present in a small amount of fat. When choosing foods, select those with healthy fats, like fish and nuts. But remember, a very little bit of fat burns for a long time and contains lots of energy.
Rule 7 : Sugar is too sweet for your tank.
Carbohydrates are foods that are broken down into sugar by the body. If you were running a race that requires a lot of energy in a short period of time, carbohydrates are a good choice. However, if not burned right away, carbohydrates are stored almost immediately. Over time, diets high in processed carbohydrates have been tied to many health problems. Choose healthier foods with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
RULE 8: Premium fuel (for the body) has a lot of protein.
Protein is the third and final ingredient in food that provides us with calories. When the alien chooses high-grade fuel, his spaceship runs smoother for many years. Premium fuel for the body is high in protein. Protein provides good energy levels, keeps your weight steady, AND allows the body to repair itself and stay healthy for many years.
Rule 9 : Food ingredients should not be in a foreign language!
The ingredients found in the food you are eating are at the bottom of the nutrition label. Chances are, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients, that food is not a healthy option.
Rule 10 : Fuel with too many ingredients will clog your engine.
Our alien knows that fuel with a long list of ingredients is likely processed and contains fillers and preservatives that may be unhealthy for his spaceship’s engine. In a similar way, choosing foods with a lesser number of ingredients (that you can pronounce) is a good way to make sure the food you are about to eat is less processed.
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