A Quick Guide to Deciphering Nutrition Labels

Let’s be honest, nutrition labels can be a pain. Life is busy and most of us just want to get in and out of the grocery store. Sound familiar?

That said, nutrition labels can be a helpful tool for making healthier choices. And in truth, they aren’t as complicated as you might think. 

Nutrition labels offer valuable information to help you make more informed and empowered decisions about what is going into your body. This guide will help you learn to read nutrition facts like a pro.

Step 1: Serving Size

Start right at the top of the nutrition label with the serving size. This will tell you the size of the recommended single serving. This is important because all of the information on the food label is based on this serving size. 

Step 2: Calories

Next, check out the calories per serving. While calories aren’t the only thing to look out for, they can give you a good idea of how much you’re eating. Remember, if you eat more than the recommended serving size, the number of calories will increase. 

If you’re into calorie counting, use a calculator to help you determine the appropriate amount of calories for your individual needs. Having an overall idea of how many calories you want to consume per day will help guide you when choosing certain foods. 

Step 3: Nutrients

The nutrients are an extremely important part of the nutrition label. Remember, counting calories is fine, but you want to balance quantity with quality. 

If you look over to the right of the nutrition label, you’ll notice the % Daily Value (DV), which tells you the percentage of each nutrient based on recommended daily values. 

Here are some of the nutrients you may want to limit:

  • Saturated fats 
  • Trans fats (these should actually be avoided as much as possible)
  • Sugar, especially added sugars
  • Sodium 

Here are some nutrients you want to include more of:

  • Believe it or not, fats are not bad. Fats are great for brain health, and even saturated fats in moderation can be part of a heart-healthy diet.
  • While you don’t want to overdo it on the sodium, you don’t have to fear it. Sodium contains important minerals and electrolytes that your body needs. 
  • Carbohydrates are your body’s first source of energy. However, you want to make sure that you’re getting the majority of your carbohydrates from healthier, whole-grain sources.  
  • Protein is another important nutrient in your diet. Eat a variety of proteins from different sources like meat and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Fiber, which is mostly found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, is an important nutrient for digestive health.

Step 4: Vitamins & Minerals

Don’t forget to take a peek at the vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the nutrition label. Make sure to get in enough iron, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, as well as other micronutrients, to maintain good health and reduce the risk of problems. 

Take Control of Your Health

Understanding food labels will empower you to make the best possible food choices. Making informed decisions allows you to control what you put into your body, and what you decide not to in order to look and feel your best. And it all starts with the label.

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