Learn how to read and understand food labels like a pro! Discover the importance of serving size, nutrients, ingredients, daily values and claims to make informed choices about your diet. Contact us for a consultation on your healthy lifestyle journey.
Many people are confused when it comes to serving sizes, as they are often much smaller than what we expect. For example, a serving of cereal may be just a 1/2 cup, while a serving of ice cream is just 1/2 cup. That means if you're eating a whole bowl of cereal or a pint of ice cream, you're consuming twice or even four times the amount of calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label. Even I struggle to gauge a reasonable serving size, it can be deceiving when every bowl or plate in our kitchen is different and it feels like we should fill it to the brim.
It's also important to pay attention to the nutrients listed on the label. These include calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and vitamins and minerals. The label will list the amount of these nutrients per serving, and it's important to know how much of these nutrients you should be consuming on a daily basis. For example, the daily value for sodium is 2,300mg, so if a serving of a food contains more than 23% of this, it's considered high in sodium. Most processed foods, like chips, canned foods, and 2-minute noodles for example will have added sodium. Therefore, if we are consuming these foods daily, our sodium levels will be through the roof!
The ingredients are also listed in descending order by weight, so the first ingredient is the one that makes up the largest proportion of the product. This is important to know, as it will give you an idea of what the main ingredients in the food are. For example, if the first ingredient is sugar, you know that the product is high in sugar.
The label may also make claims such as "low-fat" or "organic," which are regulated by the FDA. Be sure to read the fine print and understand what the claim means in terms of the product's nutritional content. For example, a product can be labeled as "low-fat" if it contains 3 grams of fat or less per serving, but that doesn't necessarily make it healthy. Commonly, low-fat products will have lots of added sugar to replace the great flavour fat would provide.
In conclusion, understanding and interpreting food labels is an essential part of maintaining a healthy diet. By paying attention to the serving size, nutrients, ingredients, daily values and claims, you can make informed choices about the food you consume. As a nutritionist, I always recommend to my clients to take a couple of minutes to read the labels on the products they buy, it will make a huge difference in their health journey. It’s also really interesting to learn and compare the differences in food products, some ingredients usually will explain the price difference in products. For example, almond milk will often have a low percentage of almonds per carton with added oils, emulsifiers and preservatives making their product cheaper for them to produce. You may notice, on the other hand, more expensive almond milks will have a higher percentage of almonds per carton and less additives.
Are you struggling with understanding food labels and making healthy food choices? Consult with a nutritionist at MP Nutrition to help you navigate the often-confusing world of nutrition and start your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let's work together to achieve your health goals.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Understanding food nutrition labels. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/understanding-nutrition-facts-label
- American Heart Association. (n.d.). How to read nutrition facts labels. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-to-read-nutrition-facts-labels
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, January). Decoding nutrition labels. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/decoding-nutrition-labels
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, January 23). Nutrition facts: An overview. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/nutrition-facts/art-20048426
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Your guide to the updated nutrition facts label. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/your-guide-updated-nutrition-facts-label
What is the importance of understanding serving size on food labels?
Understanding serving size is crucial in determining the amount of calories, fat, and other nutrients in a serving. It's essential to be aware of what we are consuming in order to make informed choices about our diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
How do I know if a food is high in sodium?
The label will list the amount of sodium per serving, and it's important to know how much of these nutrients you should be consuming on a daily basis. The daily value for sodium is 2,300mg, so if a serving of a food contains more than 23% of this, it's considered high in sodium.
What does it mean when a product is labeled as "low-fat"?
A product can be labeled as "low-fat" if it contains 3 grams of fat or less per serving, but that doesn't necessarily make it healthy. It's important to read the label and understand what the claim means in terms of the product's nutritional content.
What does the ingredients listed in descending order by weight mean on food label?
The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the first ingredient is the one that makes up the largest proportion of the product. This is important to know, as it will give you an idea of what the main ingredients in the food are.
Can I reach out to you for more information about reading and understanding food labels?
Yes, as a nutritionist, I'm always happy to help people learn more about this topic or start their journey to a healthier lifestyle. Please feel free to contact me, and I'll be more than happy to assist you.