How to Properly Read Nutrition Labels


So many people grab food items when grocery shopping or getting a snack out of the break room or vending machine without reading the nutrition label. It’s not something to obsess about, but some of the nutritional information is important to be aware of. It’s important not only if you’re wanting to lose weight, but also for your general health.

So many things on that one little food label have an effect on your health. Cholesterol, sugar, fat, carbs; the list goes on. I don’t think this is a secret. So, why don’t we read the nutrition labels before we indulge? Truthfully, I think it’s because we’re lazy or we just don’t care enough. I’ll admit that reading the nutrition labels as we are grocery shopping does add some time to your trip. I like to compare different brands and their nutritional information before choosing what I want. That being said, once you do it a couple times, you get the idea of the nutrition of foods you buy often. For the other reason, well, you should care! You are what you eat. Your body is a temple.  Eat good, feel good. 

I could go on and on with cliches to convince you to care about what you put in your body. But when it comes down to it, eating food is simply to nourish and fuel your body. Everything you eat is either fighting disease or feeding it. If you want to live a longer, fuller and happier life, I suggest starting to care more about what you eat.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to start reading the nutrition labels of your food, it’s probably good to let you know what to look for.

  1. The first thing you want to look for is the serving size. A LOT of people ignore this part of the label. The serving size is at the top of the label for a reason. The information following the serving size applies to one serving. Portion sizes are important if you’re watching your weight, carb intake or blood sugar levels.
  2. Look at the Percent Daily Value. This percentage varies among individuals based on their gender and their activity levels. However, it’s based on the USDA recommendation of 2,000 calories/day for a moderately active woman or fairly sedentary man. No matter who you are, if you want to be healthy, you should consume a certain amount of nutrients each day. One serving of food with 5% or less of the daily value is considered low, and one serving of food with 20% or more of the daily value is considered high.
  3. Look at the nutrients that you want to limit in your diet. Look at saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sugar. Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, the average adult should consume no more than 20 grams of saturate fat/day, .5 grams of trans fat/day, and 300 milligrams of cholesterol/day. Only worry about the amount of sugar in the food that is not a whole, plant-based food. So sugars in fruits and vegetables are okay. Try to limit your sugar intake to 25 grams/day.
  4. Look at the nutrients that you want more of in your diet. This includes fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fiber is great for your digestion and helps lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A food is considered high in fiber if it contains more than 5 grams per serving.

Like I said, this doesn’t have to become an obsession. However, I do think that reading the nutrition label is important. How do you know if you’re eating healthy and giving your body what it needs if you don’t know what your food contains? If you don’t read food labels now, start today and I’m sure you’ll be surprised!

Got questions? Leave a comment or send an email!

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