One of the most important things you can do to become slimmer and healthier doesn't have to do with depriving yourself. It doesn't even have to do with exercise (although that's certainly important).
It has to do with a basic skill you learned long ago: Reading! That's right — reading can enrich your life in many ways, but today, we're going to talk about how it can slim your waistline.
You don't have to settle in for a week to read a War and Peace length novel. You just need to focus on some very specific words that you'll find on the back of your favorite food products at the grocery store.
I'm talking about reading food labels. And I'm not the only one. A study published in May in the journal Agricultural Economics found that women who read food labels were on average nearly nine pounds lighter— a difference of 1.5 body mass index points — , than women who didn't read labels.
Of course, it's not enough just to read the label, you also have to know how to make the right decisions for your health and waistline. So, here are some tips to get you going.
- Sodium content: Sodium is a pretty big issue with prepackaged food. Most people focus so heavily on the fat, calorie and carbohydrate content that they skip over sodium completely. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, our total daily intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams.
- Fat content: Fat isn't all bad. In fact, our bodies need some fat to survive. So, instead of looking for foods that are completely fat free, opt for ones that include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (healthy) fats, instead of saturated (unhealthy) fats. Also, avoid anything that includes hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats. Those are trans fats.
- Calorie count: Many of us have tried at least one of those calorie-counter diets, so we're pretty familiar with reading this line. But it's not really necessary to get out your calculator. If one serving of something contains nearly one thousand calories or more, it's an indulgence that you may want to avoid.
- Serving size: The first thing you should do when reading any label is to take a look at the serving size. According to its label, there are two servings of soup in most packages of ramen noodles. If you plan to eat the whole thing for lunch, you've got to double everything, including sodium, fat and calories.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!