Being able to read a nutrition label will support you on your path to healthier eating. Once you understand what it all means you will have created awareness in your life which will (hopefully) result in better decisions. I will provide an overview of how to quickly scan a label and make sense of it all.
In addition to reading a label also be mindful of the ingredients list. I will not be going into great detail as it becomes very complicated but if you’re interested in learning more there are lots of resources online. Let’s begin.
Here is a nutrition label:
1. Always Start With The Serving Size
This area will provide you with the portion that is being calculated on the label itself. It will also give you the number of servings per container.
2. Total Calories Per Serving
This magic number is the total amount of calories per serving. These calories are comprised from carbohydrates, fat and protein. Here is a breakdown of where they come from:
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of proteins = 4 calories
3. Limit The Not-So-Good Nutrients
Beware of ingesting high levels of fat, cholesterol and sodium as these run the risk of increasing heart disease, cancers and high blood pressure. I will also need to add sugar to the list of culprits as diabetes is a global epidemic along with a host of other glucose-related illnesses.
4. Load Up On The Good Nutrients
Vitamins, calcium, iron and fiber provide our body with nourishment in order to help it grow and maintain itself. You are free to enjoy these nutrients but like with anything else too much of a good thing can turn bad. Moderation is key.
5. Percent Daily Value (%DV)
These percentages let you know how much of a nutrient you are getting in the serving. This allows you to compare between different foods and see which one is richer in the nutrients that you need. These figures are always based on a 2,000 calorie diet therefore your needs may vary due to your own caloric intake. So take all of this with a grain of salt and remember that 5% is a little and 15% is a lot of a nutrient.
6. Full Footnote With Daily Values (DVs)
This additional information will appear on the label if it is large enough. In this footnote you will find DVs for important nutrients such as fats, sodium and fiber. This is offered as dietary advice and does not change from product to product meaning that it always stays the same. These recommendations are based on a 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diet.
Like I mentioned before, this entire topic can become a lot more extensive. But I believe when you break things down into digestible pieces there is a greater chance for the knowledge to sink in deeper. You don’t need to be a certified nutritionist to gain a basic understanding of nutrition. All you need is an open mind and a willingness to learn.