How to decipher food labels while pregnant

Trying to work out which foods to choose when pregnant can sometimes be overwhelming. Nutritionist Cheree Sheldon shares tips on what to look out for on food labels when choosing the right foods.
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Whether you are following a healthy food plan or not, trying to work out which foods to choose from the supermarket can sometimes be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look out for.

Here, Cheree Sheldon, Nutritionist shares some tips on what to look out for when choosing the right pregnancy foods for you:

How To Decipher Food Labels

Just step into a supermarket and you are instantly bombarded with messages such as “low fat”, “sugar free”, “GMO free”, and “organic”, but what does it all mean and how do we pick a winner?

Consider the marketing

A food manufacturer is just after one thing, for you to buy their product. They will resort to all sorts of tricks to get you to do that. The way we don’t fall for slick marketing is to learn how to read labels and to decide for ourselves what we will eat.

Take “low fat” for example… What is the benchmark for comparison that this product is low in fat? It may be lower in fat compared to another similar product but still be relatively high. It may be low in fat but high in sugar. It may be low in fat but full of artificial products to achieve the texture that a good fat will give us.

Look at the ingredients

The law states that a label needs to show the ingredients list, a nutritional panel, and declare all allergens. The first thing we need to do to decipher the riddle is to read the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order of greatest to least amount contained within the product. Try to choose processed foods that have short lists, and all full of real foods.

What do the numbers mean?

Some manufacturers use names of additives, while some use numbers that they correspond to. Get to know the numbers! Not all numbers are bad, but some are absolutely terrible! You can download free apps or buy books such as The Chemical Maze, Fed Up, or Additive Alert, that will guide you through these decisions. It is generally recommended that you steer clear of all artificial colours and preservatives.

The nutritional panel

When looking at a nutritional panel it is divided into two sections, the amount per serve that is determined by the manufacturer, and the amount per 100g. It is easier to decipher if you look at the amount per 100g to see if it is worth eating or not. Take fat for example, the product labeled “low fat” might have 2g per serve but might be 25g per 100g.

Carbohydrates have to be broken into total Carbs and the amount of sugars. A rough guide is to aim for all processed food choices to be under 10g of sugar per 100g, but with new evidence about how sugar affects our health, and the health of our unborn children, it may be worth revising this and dropping the amount even further.

Some food products, such as the Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie also have a section in the nutritional panel that tells us the amount of a nutrient that it contains compared to the RDI, which is the recommended daily intake. This intake is set by the government to keep healthy people within normal nutritional limits, and at different stages throughout life, these amounts will change for you. Protein for example, is required at higher amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

GMO & Organic

Other things you may read on labels are “GMO free”, this means it is free of foods that are genetically modified. Unfortunately food manufacturers and governments have decided for us that Genetically modified foods can be put into our foods without us knowing. This is unacceptable, but thankfully, there are ethical producers out there giving us a choice, and letting us know that this food is not GMO.

Organic is another word that gets bandied around on labels, but unless it has been certified organic and has a little symbol that declares this, then it is just a descriptive word used for a marketing ploy.

Get to know your products, get into the habit of reading the back of the labels, learning how to decipher the riddle will let you be confident that your pregnant food choices are the smartest for you and your family.

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