It can get confusing trying to figure out which foods are “good” for you. A great place to start is reading the food nutrition labels on the back of products. We’re going to break down the basics of how to read these labels and interpret them in order to help you make better food choices.
First, notice the serving size and the amount of serving sizes in the package. This is a crucial step that will impact all others after. For example, if the serving size is ½ cup and you eat 1½ cups, then everything else on the label would need to be tripled.
Percent Daily Values
Let the percent daily values on the label be a guide. These values are based on a person eating 2,000 calories per day. Your personal needs may differ from the 2,000 calories suggested. If so, your percentages will need to be adjusted. A “low” daily value is 5% or less. You will ideally want to see these in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A “high” daily value is 20% or more. You would like to see this in the areas of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Besides calories, there are other areas to pay attention to on the nutrition food label and within your diet.
- Protein is not required on a food label, but is still something that you want to include in your diet.
- Carbohydrates are broken down in three categories: sugars, starches, and fiber. A well balanced diet requires carbohydrates and one way to include healthy carbohydrates is with whole-grain bread, rice, cereal, and pasta.
- Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruits and milk or are from refined sources such as table sugar and corn syrup. Added sugars are now included on food labels. You can learn more about added sugars in our blog The True Impact of Added Sugar: What You Need to Know.
Other Nutrition Terms
Here are some other terms you might see on the nutritional food label and what they mean.
- Low Calorie – less than 40 calories per serving
- Low cholesterol – 20 milligrams or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.
- Reduced – At least 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.
- Calorie free – Less than five calories per serving.
- Fat free/sugar free – Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving.
- Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.
For a deeper dive into deciphering the food labels in your kitchen and the groceries you typically buy, reach out to Angela today at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Interactive Grocery Shopping Experience or the Complete Kitchen Clean Out are great places to start!
Hi I'm Angela
I am a Certified Health Coach and the founder of Bee Healthy Coaching. As a mom of 4 and step mom of 3, it is my mission to provide you with the tools, resources, and encouragement needed to overcome obstacles, find balance, and thrive.