How to Read a Nutrition Label – Examples

Many people are confused by how to read nutrition labels we see on packaged foods in the supermarket.

Before we talk about some simple tips for reading those labels, it’s important to remember that some of the healthiest foods in the store, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or a filet of fish don’t need nutrition labels to tell you they’re nutritious.

So one simple strategy for eating wisely, is to try as much as possible, to avoid foods with nutrition labels. Because these are packaged, and more heavily processed, than fresh foods.

How to Read a Nutrition Label
Fresh food needs no labels to tell you it’s nutritious.

Having said that, since the majority of us eat at least some packaged food items, it’s good and important to know what to look for, especially if you’re comparing two packaged items and trying to make an informed decision.

 

 

How to Read a Nutrition Label


Nutrition labels are usually divided in couple of sections.

Sections to pay attention to are:

  1. Number of servings,
  2. total calories,
  3. dietary fiber,
  4. sugar,
  5. total amount of fat and its composition
  6. sodium and
  7. vitamins and minerals.

Today, we’ll look into these values and learn how to quickly figure out which products are doable and which we’re best to avoid.

 

  1. Number of Servings


It’s important to keep in mind that the nutrition label may not reflect the contents of the entire package.

There’s often more than a single serving in one container and this can be confusing and misleading to many people.

I saw a mini loaf of banana bread in a shop the other day and thought hm, not bad.

The sugar, fat and calories in this are pretty reasonable.

Then I saw that there were five servings in that mini loaf. Multiplied by five, the nutrition label didn’t look so healthy anymore.

How to Read a Nutrition Label

 

To get the real nutrition number of the product,

multiply it by the number of servings.

 

2.  Total Calories – per serving.


This probably isn’t the best way to judge whether something is good for you. Some foods like nuts and avocados, for example, are high in calories but also very healthy as long as they’re eaten in reasonable amounts.

 

How to Read a Nutrition Label

But if weight loss is your goal, and you’re comparing two cereals for example, the calories in a packaged food item are something you want to keep an eye on.

 

How to Read a Nutrition Label
If you want to lose weight choose the product with fewer calories.

 

3.  Dietary Fiber

 


Dietary fiber is important for maintaining gut health, stabilizing blood glucose levels after eating, and delaying the return of hunger.

How to Read a Nutrition Label
Higher fiber value is better for metabolism and pooping.

So, choosing a cereal that’s higher in fiber is usually a sensible thing to do.

 

4.  Sugar


There is convincing evidence that our modern epidemics of obesity and diabetes are at least partly related to the fact that we eat far too much sugar.

How to Read a Nutrition Label
Recommended daily intake of sugar is 6 teaspoons.

To convert the amount of sugar in grams to teaspoons, just divide by four.

You might be alarmed to see that some children cereals contain 5 or more teaspoons of sugar per serving.

 

 

5.  Total Amount of Fat and The Breakdown of The Fat Content


In general, the fats in processed foods tend to be less healthy than the fats found in plant foods like avocados or nuts.

These are naturally occurring unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats like those found in red meats and butter can be eaten in reasonable amounts. 

And trans fats, which are more commonly found in processed foods, these kinds of fats should be avoided entirely

How to Read a Nutrition Label
Eat reasonable amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats. Avoid trans fats.

Moreover, legislation in the U.S. was passed in 2015 ordering food manufacturers to stop using trans fats because of the associated increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

 

6. SodiumHow to Read a Nutrition Label


Choosing foods with less sodium is also a good idea.

Packaged foods often contain much more added salt than the less processed versions of those foods.

 

 

7. Vitamins and Minerals


Nutrition labels will also often contain a list of vitamins and minerals found in the food. And this can be misleading.Added vitamins and How to Read a Nutrition Labelminerals don’t necessarily mean that the food is healthy. And in fact, some unhealthy foods have added vitamins and minerals because the manufacturers of those foods know that nutrition claims tend to increase sales to the health conscious consumer.

 

Nutrition Literate


 

Having knowledge to read nutrition labels and compare packaged food items is important. Remember to always check the number of servings and then adjust “per serving” values to those of full product.

But just as important as reading nutrition labels is to encourage you to eat fewer packaged foods. Try to limit you intake of processed, packaged food and eat plant based foods instead.

Try to eat more fresh foods, that don’t have nutrition labels, such as fresh veggies, fruits and produce in general.

How to read a nutrition label

Also, the product with shorter ingredient list is usually less processed and better for you than the product with long ingredient list and never-heard-before ingredients.

 

I hope you found the information that is useful to you. If you have any questions, want to share your experience or just chat on this topic, write a comment below. I’d love to hear your point of view!

 

Till next time,

Katya

8 thoughts on “How to Read a Nutrition Label – Examples”

  1. This is a very important issue and nicely summarized here. My mother had a very serious health scare when I was young and as a result, she became extremely health conscious. My entire childhood, grocery shopping mostly involved staying in the produce aisles, and when we did ventured into packaged foods, all labels were read carefully. Later in life, I found myself surprised by how surprised people would be when I casually mentioned how much added sugar there was in things like bread, or that added vitamins might not even be digested. I realized that most people didn’t look beyond the calorie count – if they read the food label at all – which, as you mention, isn’t really that big of a deal. Thanks for the article. It is needed.

    Reply
    • Hi Shanna, thanks for you comment. I feel the same way as you, we should pay more attention to what we’re buying and eating – just because you can find it in the store, doesn’t mean it’s good for you! The vast majority of “Food” today, and by that I mean processed, packed, fancy marketing “food” was designed by food scientists and they have absolutely nothing to do with you as a  human with life to live. It was designed to taste good (That’s why they add sugar) and to not spoil while sitting on a store shelves (that’s why they take nutritional, natural stuff out of it).

      best,

      Katya

      Reply
  2. I had to teach my entire family to read nutrition labels.  It’s so important to check the ingredients before we buy groceries. I think the less items listed on the ingredient list, the better.  I think your vegan recipes sound so good and I’m going to try them very soon.  The vegan pantry essentials list is so helpful!  Do you know if vegans need to supplement to get the proper vitamins each day?  I’m going to order that KOS protein powder….its organic and received 5 star reviews from customers that used it.

    Reply
    • Hi Alyse, I’m glad you found the list useful! No matter the diet you should supplement with vitamin B12 and vitamin D, you can read more about vegan supplement recommendations here. Yeah, KOS is great, you’ll love it 😉

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing such an awesome and health article.you being able to read the nutritional value if any product,died not guarantee you a healthy life because some companys do not give accurate specification and quantity on ingredients used,If I am to purchase a food product that has natural substitute, I normally prefer to buy the natural one than already processed one.

    thanks best regards.

    Reply
  4. Wow! Amazing

    I don’t really understand how to read a nutrition label, I just look at them to check for composition,but I never knew it goes way more than that! I look at the composition and I will say to myself ” this is more healthy than the other” because it doesn’t contain more ingredients! But from your article I just realized that the one with less composition write up are less processed, so we should go for that one.

    Thamks,your article was really helpful.

    Reply
  5. Wow….this is a very good educational and intriguing article… I never knew there were way one could actually look out for the nutritional lebals from packaged foods and also fruits….the human body needs a lot of nutrition to keep the cells active to be able to fight against germ that results to diseases I our body….
    Its really lucky for me to stumble into such intriguing article… Thanks for the post

    Reply
  6. Hello there! This is educative, befor, I normally read the expiring date and just forget about the nutrition label as it’s like french for me. 

    Thanks for sharing this with me, I’ve learnt a lot, from now I will be checking out for the label and read every damn thing in it😄.

    Reply

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