Understanding how to accurately read food labels is a very important skill when starting a weight gain diet. It’s an important skill because you want to be able to determine how much protein, carbohydrate, and fat is present in the foods that you eat, and which foods to avoid.
The important thing you need to realize is that even though food
labels list a certain number of calories per serving, this does not mean
you are in fact consuming this number calories per serving. Often times
the serving size listed on the food label is not accurate. This is a
problem because the nutrition food label is based on the “serving size,”
so if you make the mistake of assuming this is correct then you will be
getting the wrong information.
So, what should you do to get an accurate serving size? After a while
it will just become second nature and you will know how many calories
you are eating just by looking at the serving size. I generally
recommend breaking out the measuring scales for a few weeks when first
getting started, until you have a good eye for determining serving size.
Calculating the total number of calories would have to be the most
important data on the food label if you are trying to gain weight.
Figuring out the correct number of calories from protein, carbohydrate,
and fat is relatively straightforward. You simply have to take the
number of grams listed in the amount per serving and multiply this
number by 4 for protein and carbs. Figuring out the fat calories is a
bit different. Take the number of grams of fat listed in the amount per
serving and multiply this number by 9.
Carbohydrate would have to be the most misunderstood piece of
information on food labels. Regardless of what you may have read,
carbohydrate is an important part of a bulking up diet and should make
up about 50% of total calories. There are two main types of carbohydrate
– simple and complex carbs, but they are not created equal. Most of
your calories from carbs should come from complex sources, but how do
you know if a food is a simple or complex carbohydrate?
The first way of knowing whether or not a food is a simple carb or
complex carb is identifying which foods fit into these two categories.
Foods which contain complex (good) carbohydrates include most fruits,
vegetables, pasta, beans, nuts, oats, whole grains, whole wheat bread
and brown rice. Simple (bad) carbs can be found in most types of junk
food, such as cakes, candy, soda, syrups, white bread and white rice.
The second way of knowing whether or not a certain food is a simple
or complex carb is by reading the nutrition label. Listed below total
carbohydrate is “dietary fiber” and “sugars”.
Dietary fiber is the indigestible parts of plant cells and is one of
the few nutrients which you want to be high on the food label. If a food
has a high amount of fiber (only needs to be a few grams), it’s more
then likely a complex carb. Although it’s considered a carbohydrate,
fiber does not convert to glucose and therefore does not raise your
blood sugar the same way other carbohydrates typically do, which is what
makes a complex carb good in the first place.
The “sugars” section includes those that are present naturally in the
food. For example, lactose which is present in milk and fructose in
fruit, as well as sugars added to the food during processing. Your body
usually can’t distinguish between natural and processed sugars. Foods
which have high sugar content will usually mean it’s a simple carb, so
it’s best to stay away from them as much as possible.