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reading labels

In a ketogenic lifestyle, everything revolves around the right food. But how do you read labels? How do you know what to look for, are there tricks to do it faster, and when do you know what a good product is? You’ll learn it all in this article!

It’s less work than you think

You’re probably thinking, ‘Ugh, reading all those labels is a lot of work, and I don’t understand any of it…!’ But don’t worry, when you know what to pay attention to, it’s really a piece of cake.
In the beginning, it will definitely take you some extra time in the supermarket, but you’ll see that you’ll get faster (and better) at it. Once it becomes second nature, you won’t even think of it as a hassle.

What to Look at First?
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What to Look at First?

The first thing to check is the nutritional information table, where you can see the amount of each type of nutrient per 100 grams. Be cautious because it’s often presented per serving, which can be misleading.

Personally, I always start by looking at the number of carbohydrates. This helps me gauge whether it’s worth reading further.

Also, pay attention to the “of which sugars” section, as it’s related to the total carbohydrates (since carbohydrates are sugars). Additionally, consider the “of which polyols” section. These three elements together provide the actual amount of carbohydrates present.
You can deduct polyols (partly) from the total carbohydrates. Polyols are sweeteners, and they have a different effect on blood sugar levels than actual sugar. You can read all about polyols and subtracting them in this article.

The 5 Gram Rule
For some reason, many people have adopted the idea of a “5-gram rule” in a ketogenic lifestyle. The exact origin of this is unknown, but many people cling to it firmly and stubbornly. This is not a hard and fast rule!

It can indeed be a handy guideline for the most commonly used products, but there are also many products that fit perfectly (in moderation) into a ketogenic lifestyle but may have higher carbohydrate content. Take herbs and spices as an example; they typically have over 50 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams. However, given the origin of the product (usually vegetables/plants, etc.) and the small amount you actually consume, they can be used effectively.

Conversely, a product may have less than 5 grams of carbohydrates (per 100 grams), but it may contain ingredients that are not suitable for a keto/low-carb lifestyle, such as sugar, starch, wheat, etc.

So, use your common sense when determining whether a product is suitable. Consider the origin of the product (and its nutritional values), how much of it you will actually use per meal, and look at any other ingredients.

Fats and Proteins
Next, look at the amount of fats and proteins. Ideally, you want there to be more fat than protein since 70% of your nutritional needs come from fat, while only 25% come from protein. If you choose a product that is very high in protein but low in fats, you can still use it, but make sure to pair it with something higher in fat to maintain the right balance.

Do the Nutritional Values Meet Your Criteria?
Then, it’s essential to examine the ingredients. You’d like to consume as much pure, real food as possible, preferably with few (or no) unhealthy additives.

For me, how “strict” I am in evaluating a product’s suitability depends on the amount I’m going to use. If I’m only using a teaspoon of it in a dish for multiple people, I’m less concerned if it contains some unhealthy ingredients (like poor-quality oils). But if I’m using the product in larger quantities, I want it to consist solely of good and healthy ingredients.

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The ingredients are listed in order of quantity on the packaging. The product mentioned first in the ingredients list has the highest amount, while the one mentioned last has the least.

Also, compare different brands. For the same type of product, the nutritional values and any additives can vary significantly between different brands. Sometimes this difference can be more than half in terms of carbohydrates. So, take the time and effort to compare various brands. It’s worth it!

Important! Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that manufacturers change the composition of their product without clear notification. Therefore, it’s essential to check the label every time you buy a product, even if it’s something you use frequently. It would be a shame to think you’re doing well, only to find out that’s not the case.

Do It for Real!

Once again, I can understand that you might think this takes a lot of time during grocery shopping and that you’re not looking forward to it or might even dread it. I felt the same way before I started.

In the beginning, it takes some getting used to, and it might take a bit more time because you’re comparing different brands and still figuring out what to look for. But it will become faster and easier over time.

If you make it a habit to do this routinely, you won’t spend significantly more time grocery shopping, and you’ll breeze through reading labels.


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