Do You Know How To Read Labels?!

September 30, 2014

Do you know how to read food labels and nutrition facts?  It may seem like a daunting task, but when you know how it can change your life!  As I meet more and more families to do pantry and frig makeovers, I’ve realized most people (adults and kids) don’t know how to read the labels.   No one may ever have explained these things to you so let me do the honors of teaching you the basics and giving you helpful tips so you understand what it all means.

Let’s start from the beginning. First check out the serving size…many times there are multiple servings in a box or container and the nutrition facts can be deceptive.  Soups and peanut butter are great examples.  In one can of soup, there are 2 servings and peanut butter lists 2 tbsp as 1 serving. Don’t be tricked–pay attention to the serving size and make sure you’re not getting double the calories/carbs/sodium/sugar than you think.  When you’re looking at the labels, check out the total fat and saturated fat.  Limit the fat–that is usually where we go way overboard each day. This picture points out some other important parts of the food label.

You want to keep your daily sodium under 2,000mg and sugar under 30g! Check out the sodium in a can of soup or packaged meal…notice the serving size! Usually 1 can of soup has almost your whole daily sodium. Sugar hides in almost everything we eat. Pay attention to the added sugar in tomato sauce, salsa and many other food items in your pantry. Usually the common takeaway when people start reading labels is how much sugar and sodium is in EVERYTHING we eat. Make sure you’re an educated shopper and eat healthy. Start readying those labels!

Below are some other helpful tips I found here:

Label Reading Tips
The first thing you’ll see is the label on the front of the food package. Manufacturers can say most anything they want on the front label (to get the real story, see the Nutrition Facts panel on the back). Here are some terms you may see there, and what they really mean:

  • Fortified, enriched, added, extra, and plus. This means nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed and vitamins added in processing. Look for 100% whole-wheat bread and high-fiber, low-sugar cereals.
  • Fruit drink. This means there’s probably little or no real fruit, and lots of sugar. Look for products that say “100% Fruit Juice.”
  • Made with wheat, rye, or multigrain. These products may have very little whole grain. Look for the word “whole” before the grain to ensure you’re getting a 100% whole-grain product.
  • Natural. The manufacturer started with a natural source, but once it’s processed the food may not resemble anything natural. Look for “100% All Natural” and “No Preservatives.”
  • Organically grown, pesticide-free, or no artificial ingredients. Trust only labels that say “Certified Organically Grown.”
  • Sugar-free or fat-free. Don’t assume the product is low-calorie. The manufacturer may have compensated with unhealthy ingredients that don’t taste very good — and have no fewer calories than the real thing.

Here are some key phrases you’ll see on the Nutrition Facts panel on the back of the package:

  • Serving Size. Portion control is important for weight management, but don’t expect manufacturers to make it easy for you. Pop-Tarts, for instance, come two to a package. The label says one serving is 200 calories — for “one pastry.”
  • Calories and Calories From Fat. This tells you how many calories are in a serving, and how many of those calories come from fat. Remember that this information is for one serving as defined on the label.
  • Nutrients by Weight and Percentage of Daily Value (%DV). This shows how much of each nutrient is in one serving, by weight in grams and by %DV. This symbol refers to the recommended daily allowance for a nutrient based on a 2,000-calorie diet (some nutrients, such as sugar and protein, don’t have a %DV). Fats are listed as “Total Fat” and also broken down so you can see how much is unhealthy saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Vitamins and Minerals.  Vitamins and Minerals are listed by %DV only. Pay particular attention to vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron; most Americans don’t get enough in their diets.
  • Ingredients. They’re listed in order from the greatest amount to the least. Experts offer a rule of thumb: the fewer the ingredients, the better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *