Calorie check in isle 5, please?

Before I started counting calories, I hadn’t paid much attention to nutrition labels. At least, not nearly as much as I do now. Sure, I would check fiber and protein counts occasionally. Sometimes I’d double check to make sure a product didn’t contain any trans fat. Beyond that I was in the land of ignorance-is-bliss. I figured that similar products would all be about the same calories, unless something was marked as “light” – and then I assumed the item was ok to have on a diet.

When I did start to track calories, obviously this required me to pay close attention to those labels. It was a huge eye-opener. Products that seem exactly the same – can vary in calories to a huge degree. Once I saw that, reading the labels of everything I buy has become both a necessity and an obsession. It certainly has made shopping trips take a lot longer, but the quality of food I’m buying is worth the extra time. Something that can look and taste almost the same, can differ in calories by a few hundred. And the big surprise, not all of those items labeled “light” are really lower calorie.

Just today, I was looking for some quick, easy lunches. I found some instant-noodle bowls that looked interesting. They all looked about the same, but read the label and one package was around 500 calories. Another was under 300.

Another thing to watch out with those nutrition labels, sometimes I feel like they design them to fool the consumer. Something that may look like it’s a low-calorie item, may not be at all – it all depends on the portion size too. I see this a lot in cereals. We found an awesome tasting cereal that was made to look healthy and low calorie, but the one serving the nutrition label was basing it’s numbers on was so small, there would be no way to feel satisfied with it.

Scanning the labels is pretty time consuming, and with a husband and two kids usually in tow – it’s not very practical. The first few weeks of calorie counting, I had to go shopping on my own so I could spend the time to look at all the labels on the shelf. Thankfully, now things have gotten a lot easier. I’m starting to be familiar with what to expect for calories for certain items. I’m getting to know the brands that have the lower calories so shopping trips aren’t as slow as they used to be.

It took time to make this part of our regular routine and way of eating. But it’s well worth the time we invested.


  1. Gillian
    Aug 25, 2009

    Two weeks ago, I decided to commit to losing 1.5 lbs a week through counting calories and sweaty exercise every-other day. (Goal is to be healthy and to be pre-pregnancy weight by 2010 especially since my “baby” is 4)

    Your post is timely since I was just trying to explain why shopping trips at the grocery store are taking so much longer. It isn’t only the label-checking for me, but also the time to pick out a LOT more produce than I used to buy (Who knew there was spaghetti squash?!)

    I’d been on WW before but was annoyed by all the writing down. Somehow keeping track of food and exercise on my iPhone has made it so much easier. I’m using a free app, Lose It!, that tracks food, nutrition info, weight loss, time frame for weight loss, and cool daily and weekly charts. It doesn’t export though but it is free. (I’m Not connected to the company in any way. )

    So… Here’s my attempt at humor… Here’s to being losers! 😉

  2. Jennifer
    Aug 25, 2009

    Gillian, I am right there with you! About half of my weight was gained during pregnancies – my oldest “baby” is 9 and my youngest “baby” will be 4 in September. LOL! It sounds like you’re on the right track for this, though. You can do it!!! 😀

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about that Lose It! program. If I ever decide to leave MyFoodDiary – I will have to check it out!

    And about the produce – Yeah, I was going to add that even better than something that has LABELS is buying veggies (and some fruit) I keep hearing about this “raw diet” craze. Not ALL of it is really raw foods, but sounds like a nearly-vegetarian diet. I need to investigate it more. Might be something to add into the mix…

  3. Margie
    Aug 25, 2009

    The health benefits themselves make it worth the effort. My husband has to really watch his cholesterol, so we buy NOTHING without checking that label. There’s so much hidden fat in processed foods, you really have to be careful.

    Which is why buying more produce and unprocessed food is really the way to go. Now, if only Cheetos grew on trees …

  4. Jennifer
    Aug 25, 2009

    LOL! I’d be happy with ketchup being counted as a veggie so I felt like my son was eating something nutritious for once. (Seriously – if Lucky Charms can be fortified with vitamins and minerals, can’t they add SOMETHING to ketchup??)

  5. Heather
    Aug 26, 2009

    Glad everyone is mentioning that the easiest way to avoid bad additives and padded calories is to shop for the actual ingredients (fruits, veggies, meat, fish) that make up meals and stay away from processed foods. We make our own granola and it’s easy and healthy (we use honey to sweeten it, but some use maple syrup). I distrust most processed food at this point – even most flavored yogurts contain HFCS. Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran both contain HFCS (although our grocery store brand of Corn Flakes omits it). A little granola, Greek yogurt, and some berries sprinkled on top and I know it’s actually healthy.

    Jen, your weight loss is inspiring. I’m still losing after the birth of my second child. I have passed my pre-#2 weight, but still have four more lbs. before I am at my pre-#1 weight, and another six lbs. to go to get to goal weight after that. It’s been slow, but steady.

  6. Jennifer
    Aug 26, 2009

    Heather, you’re so close! That’s really not that much to lose! (Although I know how the last few are always the slowest/hardest to get rid of) I’ve been finding that I’ll seem to lose nothing for a few weeks then in one week I’ll finally drop a pound or TWO even. (And then it will go up and then back down again – but that’s another story. LOL!) Slow and steady wins the race.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *