Knowing how to read a nutrition label is a life skill, especially when you are trying to lose weight. I walk around the supermarket like it’s a library. I read everything I’m thinking of buying and I am always looking out for new products to investigate. It is also useful for when you want to compare products and choose which is healthier. Reading labels might seem difficult, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. There are so many numbers and words you have never heard of, its easy to get confused. However, once you know how to do it, it will become second nature.
Let’s first take a look at the product below. Quickly just read through it and see what you can identify and what you don’t understand. We are going to use this example below to go through and explain what each section means.
This is the food’s recommended serving size. It can be shown as a weight measurement like 2/3 cup, or 55g or a number measurement like 10 pieces. So from this food you will get 8 serves.
Serving per Container
This is the suggested number of servings. For example, if a food has eight servings per container and you eat half of the bag, you would be eating four servings.
This is the amount of calories per serving of 55g. Therefore in 55g there are 230 calories.
Calories from Fat
These are calories derived from fat. It is recommended you choose foods with less than 30% of calories derived from fat.
This is the total fat per one serving (55g) in grams and in % Daily Value. Therefore this food has 8g of fat per 55g of food. Choose foods with less fat to reduce weight gain.
This is fat from animal produce, dairy products and tropical oils. It is measured in grams. A diet high in saturated fat is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Choose foods with 2 grams or less saturated fat. This food has 1g of saturated fat per 55g. Labels may also list monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are unsaturated, healthy fats that may help protect your heart, however all fats should be used in moderation. For example nuts and avocado contain healthy fats.
Trans fats are shaped by chemically manipulating the oil. This increases the product’s shelf life. A diet high in Trans fats can increase cholesterol levels, which increases risk of heart disease. Try to avoid trans fats.
This is another form of fat, which is measured in milligrams. Too much dietary cholesterol is another risk factor for heart disease and high cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in organ meats, dairy products, shrimp, and egg yolks. Limit you daily intake to 300 milligrams for the best outcome.
Sodium is another name for salt. This is a nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure and fluid balance. It is measured in milligrams. Of 55g, this food has 160mg of sodium.
Research has suggested that a high sodium intake can be related to high blood pressure. Try to restrict your sodium intake to 2300mg per day. One tsp of table salt has around 2000mg of sodium.
This is the amount of total carbohydrates, per serving, measured in grams. Carbohydrates are primarily found in starches, vegetables, fruits, sweets and milk. Overeating on carbohydrates for a long time can lead to diabetes. Of 55g, this food has 37g of carbohydrates.
This is the amount of fiber derived mainly from plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, nuts and seeds and is measured in grams. Foods high in fiber are shown to be beneficial for weight control, high cholesterol and some forms of cancer. Foods that have 5g of fiber or more are considered “high fiber” foods. Of 55g, this food has 4g of fiber.
Sugar is processed in our bodies the same as carbohydrates. This can be derived from natural or artificial sources. Of 55g, this food has 1g of sugar.
This is the amount of total protein the food contains, it is measured in grams. Protein contains amino acids found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, beans, grains and some vegetables. Protein is the building blocks of all muscle and can help body toning. Of 55g, this food has 3g of protein.
Vitamins & Minerals
These are vitamin and mineral micronutrients measured in percentages. You should aim for 100% of each per day.
Percent Daily Values
The Daily Value % shows the amount of each of the nutrients listed above which are needed in a 2000 calorie diet. This is the suggested needs of the average person each day.
Everything that makes up that food is listed like spices, artificial coloring and flavors are listed on the ingredient list. Always look out for words that you have never heard of, this usually means that the food contains chemicals and other artificial ingredients.