How to Read and Understand Food Labels

Reading labels will totally change how you eat.  In fact, sometimes when I really want something, I intentionally don’t read the label.  That always prevents me from eating something I shouldn’t.  If you are trying to eat better, reading the labels on the food you eat should be the first place you start.

Serving Size – This is the first thing you will see and the first thing you should check.  You might be really excited to read that your favorite chips have only 90 calories per serving.  Keep reading because there’s a good chance that 1 serving is only 9 chips making each and every chip 10 calories.  That’s just hypothetical, but you get the point.  This will definitely influence your decision to sit down with the whole bag.

Calories – (My least favorite word in the English dictionary) – Calorie consumption plays a big part in weight management.  According to the FDA, as a general guideline 40 calories per serving is low, 100 calories per serving is moderate, and 400 calories or more per serving is high.  This is important to keep track of because eating too many calories per day is linked to overweight and obesity.

Nutrients – Nutrients on a label are divided into 2 sections.  The first section contains fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  These are the nutrients you should limit.  Eating too much of any of these can be bad for your health.  At a glance, make sure these numbers are relatively low.  The second nutrient section lists fiber, vitamins, and other good nutrients such as Iron and Calcium.  These are the ones you want to get plenty of.  At a glance, make sure these numbers are relatively high.

Remember not to trust the front of any package.  Labels such as low-fat, low-sugar, are fortified are relative terms that essentially tell you nothing.  In order to truly know what you are consuming, you must read the nutrition label on the back.


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