Part of "learning your food" means reading nutrition labels and understanding what you're looking for in your food. Here's what you should pay attention to, generally speaking, on those labels.
1. Ratio of protein/carbs/fats. What makes a food balanced? This is a little "in the weeds", but bear with me. It's pretty impactful if you're able to grasp what "balanced" looks like with respect to nutrition labels.
- Protein sources should have 2.5 to 3 times higher protein than fat. So if a food has 20 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat, it's not a great choice. Ideally something with 20 grams of protein would have less than 8 grams of fat (20/2.5=8).
- Carb sources should have at least 2.5 times the amount of carbs than the fat content. So if you're looking at chips, you'd look to see if the carb count was at last two times more than the fat count. As long as a carb source with 20 grams of carbs has less than 8 grams of fat, it's a decent option (20/2.5=8).
- Fat sources are different because you're typically trying to minimize fat in your protein and carb sources and make up any left over ground with mainly just fat. Good sources of fats are oils (olive/coconut), butter, avocados, nut butters, whole fat cheeses, and egg yolks.
2. Fiber. Remember, we want to hit a fiber goal, too! If an item meets the ratio guidelines and has fiber, it's super macro-friendly!
3. Saturated Fat. Keep it low. If an item packs most of its fat punch with saturated fat, I'd leave it on the shelf.
4. Protein. Many foods that aren't animal protein can still pack a protein punch! Some of my favorites are low-carb tortilla wraps (they can have 8+ grams of protein!), non-fat greek yogurt, low-fat string cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, whole grain breads, english muffins, green beans, edamame, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few.
5. Serving Size. Sometimes servings are completely misleading so make sure you understand the portion size for the nutrition information provided. Sometimes a serving size is less than what you'd think (and rarely, sometimes more!). So double check it and opt to weigh your portion size, if possible.
Just a few tips to help you decipher those nutrition labels! Read them. They really do help you "learn your food"! And knowing what foods are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fats is pretty important when attempting to eat in a balance.
Read on, my friends!