Monday, August 06, 2007

Rule Seven: Use Your Smarts!

It's almost impossible to miss the recommendation to read labels on food packages these days. It's good advice no matter what dietary approach you decide to follow, and is front and center in the Rule of Induction (Atkins) too, found in rule number seven.

Rule 7:
  • Don't assume any food is low in carbohydrate - instead, read labels. Check the carb count (it's on every package) or use a carbohydrate gram counter.

This rule establishs a lifelong habit that, as you continue along with a controlled-carb diet, will be invaluable to you. You're expected to make it a habit to read labels and take responsibility for your food choices at the start of a low-carb diet and as you continue along and lose weight.

Once firmly rooted as a part of your food selection process, reading labels makes you a smart and savvy shopper - with an ability to quickly identify packaged foods that are not your best bets nutritionally.

While the first couple weeks has an underlying encouragement to limit foods to those which are fresh, it is possible to include a wide variety of prepared and/or packaged foods, thus the potential to derail success if you're not careful with your choices. So, in the first couple of weeks this rule is invaluable anytime you're including packaged processed foods in your menus.

The reality is that most people will include some packaged foods, whether salad dressings or prepared foods, from the start; so making it a habit to read labels reinforces the requirement that one take responsibility for what they eat.

Over time, reading labels helps to develop a keen eye while enabling one to make good choices among the packaged foods they include in their day-to-day menus. As more and more variety is added to a low-carb diet, it is critically important to be in the habit of reading nutrition labels - not only for carbohydrate content, but to understand ingredients used since differing brands of same-type items varying greatly not only in carbohydrate content, but ingredients used in the preparation of the packaged or prepared food.


  1. This one has bitten me in the butt one time too many--even when I thought I WAS being careful reading the labels. Manufacturers have gotten sneaky sliding in awful ingredients by using new terminology.

    The one that got me over the past year has been changing maltitol to the more gentle-sounding isomalt. SAME THING! UGH!

    EXCELLENT rule, Regina! This is an awesome series and I appreciate you highlighting this at your blog. :)

  2. When I started low carbing, I spent hours in the supermarket reading labels, my kids trailing me, ready to chorus "HOW many carbs?!" as old habits reasserted and I picked up low fat stuff : )

  3. I have found that avoiding packaged foods is a good idea. Almost all my food purchases are whole foods in their, mostly, natural state. No nutritional labels needed.

  4. Label reading is everything. Everything! I have been preaching this for ages. And, yet, I still get caught.

    Why just the other day I realized I had never read the label of my vanilla yogurt, assuming it was yogurt and vanilla. It was that, and oh so much more. Now I enjoy a different brand.

    So read all the labels, all the time. It's the only way.

  5. I'd say forget the labels - they only apply to packaged/processed food. If you are eating meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, cheese, natural foods that you cook/make yourself you will not go far wrong. The more you rely on packaged food the worse off you'll be.

  6. Like Jimmy, this has bitten me a few times. You find sugar, HFCS, partially hydrogenated oil, food starch, etc. in places you wouldn't expect.

    The labeling laws have a gimmick that if it's less than .5 g/serving, you can call it zero. Some foods that claim to be zero trans fat or zero sugar really aren't. You have to look at the ingredients, as well as the nutritional info.