How to Read a Nutrition Label

When you are trying to lose, gain or maintain weight, or simply make a healthy choice, it is important to understand and know what you are putting in your body. Food labels have become increasingly easier to read and more informative for even beginning label readers to know what they are consuming. Food labels provide all the information you need regarding the nutritional values of a particular food product.

Reading the labels will make it easier for you to judge what type of food product is good enough to put in your body. With labels, you can easily compare the food products and select the best option for your diet.

As necessary as it is, reading food labels can be a little tricky at first, but here are a few tips to get you reading them like a pro!

  1. Servings: First things first. Check the amount and size of servings contained in a package because the nutritional values are written relative to that size of a serving. Serving sizes are mentioned to make it easier to compare similar amounts of food products. Every nutritional fact mentioned on the label is influenced by that serving size.

  2. The total number of calories: The next thing you should check is the number of calories. It will tell you how many calories you are consuming per serving. You can easily calculate the number of calories that you have consumed based on the amount of the food product you have eaten. Calories are very important because the number of calories you consume or burn help determine whether you are going to gain or lose weight. For instance, 3500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat, therefore if you consume or burn 3500 calories, you are going to gain or lose one pound of weight respectively.

  3. Nutrients to avoid: The number and type of nutrients listed let you know how much energy you are consuming and how are the ingredients of this food product are going to affect or nourish your body. While reading the label, check for things like saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium; these are things you need to reduce and/or avoid if you intend to maintain your health or lose weight. These four nutrients are notorious for contributing to heart disease and various types of cancers.

  4. Nutrients to focus on: On the flip side, look for foods that have high amounts of fiber, calcium, iron, proteins, zinc and a variety of vitamins. These nutrients will nourish your body and get you through your day without draining you of energy.

  5. Percent Daily Value, or % DV: This percentage gives you an idea of the number of nutrients that are available in a single serving. If you intend to avoid or limit a certain nutrient like cholesterol, sodium, trans fat or saturated fat, select food products that show less than 5% Daily Value. Similarly, if you want to start increasing the protein in your diet, look for food products that contain 20% or more of your daily value.

  6. Read the ingredients: As you look over the ingredients list, look for which ingredients are listed first. The ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the ingredients list, the better. Also, look for whole food ingredients you recognize and avoid products that contain a whole bunch of ingredients you can't pronounce or you've never heard of. Remember, sugar can be disguised as other names such as high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup, agave nectar, barley malt syrup or dehydrated cane juice.

  7. Allergens: There are 8 major allergens required to be listed on a label by law. These are milk, egg, fish, crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans. If you suffer from allergies or food sensitivities, be sure to check here to ensure the product is safe. If you are gluten sensitive or celiac, you will want to look for "gluten free" on the label. Some products may not be labeled as "gluten free" but can still be safe for someone that is gluten sensitive, this is because it is manufactured in a facility that processes products that contain gluten. This requires some deeper ingredient detective work to ensure the product is safe for consumption.

Back when I found out I suffered with gluten sensitivity learning how to read a label felt overwhelming and time consuming, but now being a label detective has become a natural part of my grocery shopping and doesn't take much more time at all. Nowadays, I can often spot the rubbish before even reading the label!

If you'd like some additional guidance in this area, whether you have food intolerances or you just want to be more mindful about what you are putting in your body, reach out to me via email or schedule a free discovery call with me here.

With love & smiles,