How to Compare Meals

Choosing what to eat in a restaurant, supermarket or even at home can be a nightmare sometimes. The obvious answer is to get what you want on the menu, but these days, many of us stop for a second and think about the nutrition of the food we are about to eat, and for good reason! So you may find yourself comparing products, deciding which is the better option and getting in a bit of a flap. Sometimes this is an easy comparison and there is a clear winner, but if you are picking between two healthier options, it may not always be an easier choice. So what are the main things you should be paying attention to when picking what to eat?

1. Sugar content

While sugar really isn't the devil, too much can definitely be bad for us to be sure to check the sugar levels in the food. If it has a nutrition label, look for the sugar traffic light (red=bad!) or look for the "of which sugars" section under carbohydrates. Bear in mind that some of these may be natural sugars, check the ingredients to see if there is any added sugar (glucose, syrups, fructose, honey, maple syrup, rice syrup - these all count as added). If your food doesn't have a label, think about what is in it. Does it have a sugar salad dressing? Or has it been made with lots of dates? Sugar can be hidden in many things that may seem healthy!

2. Fat content

Good fats are extremely important in our diet, they provide us with essential fatty acids that do wonderful things for our body and are also anti-inflammatory. Saturated fats however, are known to cause plaque buildup in our arteries which can lead to heart disease. On a nutrition label, check the saturated fat traffic light and also the saturated fat section on the main label. Consider that men should have no more than 30g per day and women no more than 20g, so a product that already contains 20g is a lot of fat! Think about where the fat is coming from in the food. Lots of cheese, cream, bacon, sausage or other fatty meats will mean saturated fat whereas fish, olive oil, nuts and avocado will mean healthy unsaturated fats.

3. Carbohydrate Quality

Worrying about how many carbs you are eating is not the way to go, they are a great source of energy! Instead think about the quality of the carbohydrate - are they wholegrain carbohydrates that will give you lots of fibre and keep you full? Opt for foods with brown bread, brown pasta and brown rice or look for healthy grains such as quinoa, spelt, oats, freekeh and pearl barley. You can also check the fibre section on the nutrition label, we should all be aiming for 30g a day which is quite a lot!

4. Fruit and Vegetable Content

This is an easy one, but does it contain at least one serving of fruit or vegetables? Including at least one serving with every meal and snack is an easy way to get on track to five a day. Ideally aim for 2 or more with your main meals to really give your body a dose of nutrients!
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