Do you know how to read a nutrition label?
If not, you’re not alone. It can be confusing to figure out what all of the information means.
But it’s important to understand what you’re eating, especially if you’re trying to stay healthy. In this blog post, I will discuss everything you need to know about reading nutrition labels.
I’ll cover what each section means and provide tips for making healthy choices.
Let’s get started!
Servings per container/serving size
The first thing you’ll notice on a nutrition label is the serving size.
This tells you how much of the product one serving contains. It’s important to pay attention to the serving size because all nutrition information is based on that amount.
For example, if a package of cookies says it has four servings, and you eat the whole package, you’re consuming four times the calories, fat, sugar, etc., listed on the nutrition label.
Next, you’ll see the calories per serving.
This tells you how many calories are in one serving of the product. Remember that everyone has different calorie needs, so what may be a healthy amount for one person may not be for another.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your own calorie needs when you’re making food choices.
After calories, you’ll see the fat content.
This is listed in grams and as a percentage of the daily value. The daily value is based on a 2,000-calorie diet, so it may be different for you.
The fat section is divided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are the unhealthy kind of fat that can raise your cholesterol levels. Foods high in saturated fats include:
- Lard and cream
Unsaturated fats are the healthy kind of fat that can help improve your cholesterol levels. Foods high in unsaturated fats include:
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Peanut butter and peanut oil
- Olives and olive oil
- Vegetable oils (canola, corn and sunflower)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews and peanuts)
You’ll want to limit your intake of saturated fats and choose foods high in unsaturated fats instead.
The next item on the nutrition label is cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that can clog your arteries and increase your risk for heart disease.
You’ll want to keep your cholesterol levels as low as possible by limiting your intake of foods that contain cholesterol.
After cholesterol, you’ll see the sodium content.
This tells you how much salt is in one serving of the product. Sodium can raise blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease, so it’s important to limit your intake.
The recommended daily value for sodium is 2,300 milligrams, but you may want to aim lower than that if you have high blood pressure or other health concerns.
After fat, cholesterol and sodium, you’ll see the carbohydrates section.
Carbohydrates are one of the three main nutrients the body needs (along with protein and fat).
Carbohydrates are essential for providing energy to the body. Like fats, there are different types of carbs — healthy and unhealthy.
Healthy carbs include:
- Whole grains
- Unhealthy carbs include
- Processed foods
- White flour
You’ll want to focus on getting most of your carbs from healthy sources.
This section is also divided into two parts: fiber and sugars. Sugars are the unhealthy kind of carbohydrates that can raise your blood sugar levels.
Sugar is not only found in sweets but it’s also found in many processed foods. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and other health problems, so you’ll want to watch your intake.
Fiber is the healthy kind of carbohydrate that can help keep you full and regulate your blood sugar levels. You’ll want to choose foods with a lot of fiber and limited amounts of sugars.
The next section is protein.
Protein is important for building muscle, repairing tissue and keeping you feeling full after eating. This section tells you how much protein is in one serving of the product.
It’s important to note that not all proteins are created equal. Some proteins are high in saturated fats, while others are low.
You’ll want to choose a protein that is low in saturated fats and high in healthy nutrients. These proteins include:
- Lean meats
- Low-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
Vitamins and Minerals
The last section on the nutrition label is vitamins and minerals.
This tells you how much of each vitamin and mineral is in one serving of the product. If you’re looking for a good source of certain vitamins or minerals, this can be helpful information.
Now that you know how to read a nutrition label, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice!
Try making some healthier choices the next time you go grocery shopping. And remember, always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
If you want to learn more about nutrition, sign up for our free Food Talk: Better U classes.