You have to know how to read a label before you ever read a label, weird.

You have to know how to read a label before you ever read a label, weird.

March 14, 2018

When looking at nutrition labels, it sometimes feels like I’m reading an instruction manual for something from Ikea. Seriously, why would they make it so difficult to look at a tiny set of boxes and know what I am going to be putting into my body?

Well, we’ve dug our way through the weeds, so to speak, and determined what it is we need to know before reading a nutritional label.

First, look at the serving size and serving count. Many times, the label can be deceiving. One bag of chips does not contain 50 calories, one serving does, and there are something like 50 servings in the bag. Be careful!

The shorter the ingredient list, the better. A bag of apples contains one ingredient, apples. Shoot for as few ingredients in a food item as possible, and you'll be on the right track.

If there are words in the ingredient list you cannot pronounce, step away from the food.

If a word in the lists of ingredients ends with “-one,” it’s just sugar.

The fat labeling can be “misleading,” and some fats should be avoided altogether. Partially hydrogenated oil is a no-go. Run, don’t walk, away from this fat.

Just because something says it contains “zero trans fat” doesn’t mean it contains no trans fat. The FDA allows this labeling if the food has less than .5 grams per serving. Just look for the term, ‘partially hydrogenated oil,” and bingo -  a big ole clue.

Don’t be drawn to an item just because it says it’s low-fat. Many times, “low-fat” is achieved by the addition of sugar, salt, or any random combination of artificial flavors.

Fiber is good. Try to eat foods with equal amounts of sugar and fiber grams or as close to equal as possible.

Now let’s take a look at a little diagram for more help.(See below)

From top to bottom

  1. That’s how you know what total you will be looking at for the entire item.
  2. To get a total calorie count, take 230 and multiply it by 8 for a total caloric value of 1840.
  3. These guys are the ones we want to watch out for. Remember to avoid any trans-fat and keep saturated fat as low as possible.
  4. This is where we find two components of our daily macros and important vitamins. It’s essential to eat foods with dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins and other nutrients your body needs.
  5. In this segment, you’ll find super tiny print containing a quick reference for the % of daily value. You should pay attention. In this diagram, the daily calorie value is 2000, but your personal value may be closer to 1200 or 1600, for example. You have to take that into consideration with the percentages in all of the segments above.
  6. Oh, look what we have here - the ingredients! This is the segment of a nutritional label that requires careful scrutiny. The trick to understanding this portion is to know that the items are listed in quantity order. That means that the first ingredient makes up the greatest volume of the food. In this label, that would be “Dark Chocolate Chunks.”


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