Labels… They have surrounded you since the day you were born. The obvious ones you first started to notice were brand labels such as the Gap, Limited Too (flash from the past), Kellogs ( I love my Eggos!), Coca-Cola, Lego ect. The ones that you didn’t really pay attention to when you were little but now take notice too are Nutrition Facts Label. Paying attention to them is one thing being able to understand them is a completely other ball game. And now just when I started to think I got the hang of it, they realize that the serving sizes are completely wrong. We will see what happens with that but let’s get back to understanding them.
The FDA has a shockingly amazing and thorough website on how to read a nutrition fact labels but I have decided to give you a crash course.
The picture above is a very accurate way to read food labels. You always want to start at the top (#1) with the serving size. I don’t now how often you check this but if you don’t you will be consuming way more calories than you intended too. For example Annie’s Organic Macaroni and Cheese has 2.5 servings and 280 calories for 1 serving. I know I can easily eat one box by myself if I am hungry, that is 700 calories! So always check your serving size.
Next you move to calories (#2) “Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Many Americans consume more calories than they need without meeting recommended intakes for a number of nutrients.”
General Guide to Calories
- 40 Calories is low
- 100 Calories is moderate
- 400 Calories or more is high
After you have checked out calories, you move onto Nutrients (#3 & #4). The first ones listed are the most common nutrients Americans consume, the second ones (#4) are the nutrients Americans don’t consume enough of. When looking at nutrients pay attention to the sodium!! Too many people today are doubling the amount of recommended sodium in their diets. The recommended range is 1,500-2,400 milligrams (mg) a day, most people can intake anywhere from 2,000-4,800 (mg) a day. So be careful! Next check out the fats, “eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.”
The last thing to notice is the footnote (#5) at the bottom. “Note the * used after the heading “%Daily Value” on the Nutrition Facts label. It refers to the Footnote in the lower part of the nutrition label, which tells you “%DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet“. This statement must be on all food labels. But the remaining information in the full footnote may not be on the package if the size of the label is too small. When the full footnote does appear, it will always be the same. It doesn’t change from product to product, because it shows recommended dietary advice for all Americans–it is not about a specific food product.” Now your diet might not be based off a 2,000 calorie diet so these percentages won’t apply to you but it is good to know what it is. #6 lets you know what is considered a high percentage.
The most important things to pay attention to are:
- The Serving Size (I can not stress this enough!)
- Nutrients (Depending on what kind of diet you are on you will know what to look for)
Now by telling you how to read a Nutrition Fact Label, I am in no way telling you to read every label and count every last calorie and starve yourself. You only live once so don’t limit your life on making lists of what is good food and bad food. You will only drive yourself into a downward spiral. What I am saying is EDUCATE yourself. Know how to read a food label, know the good fats from the bad (I know what your thinking, there will be a post soon). Know correct portion sizes and know when you do not need to eat anymore (1 slice of anything will never kill you, 1 slice every 5 minutes could). Once you learn you will get the hang of it and be able to do it on your own. A food journal is never a bad thing, it gets you going in the right direction, on portion control and seeing what you are eating. The great thing is after a while you will no longer need that journal. To find out more check out these websites: