You don’t note the serving size
When you hunker down with a bag of chips, you could be blowing way past the recommended serving size, meaning you’re eating more calories and fat than you thought, says Jen Bruning, MS, RDN, LDN, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For an easy, no-measure trick, she recommends noting the number of servings in a package, then eyeballing how much a serving would be, like half of a two-portion bag. Be extra careful with packages that look like a single serving. “Even with small items like candy bars, it’s important to see how many servings are in your hand,” she says. “Just because it can fit in your hand or you can eat it in one sitting doesn’t mean it fits one serving size by nutrition.” Use these portion control tricks to avoid calorie overload.
You think “all natural” and “organic” are the same
Certified organic products have gone through an application and been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure they meet the criteria—organic plants don’t use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and meats are from animals that eat organic feed and haven’t been given antibiotics or hormones. However, the label “all natural” doesn’t have such strict guidelines. “All natural doesn’t really mean a lot to us,” says Mills. “We know that by FDA standards it means they’ve been minimally processed, but to what degree that ‘minimally’ means to each manufacturer may be a little different.” Check instead for specific labels you care about, like antibiotic- or GMO-free. Here’s how to decode the trickiest terms on food labels.
You imagine free-range animals frolicking in fields
Free-range animals haven’t been raised in cages, but that doesn’t mean they’re free to wander outside whenever they want. “It doesn’t guarantee that the animal has access to the great wilderness outdoors at all. They may be completely in a roofed building their entire life,” says Mills. “They may have a door to have some sunlight access, but it doesn’t guarantee every animal gets to go out.”