How to Read a Nutrition Label Like an Expert

Amanda ReichardtContributing Writer

Step 1: Read over the container from front to back, not just the nutrition label’s serving size and calories. In order to save time in our day, we tend to skim over words and not read thoroughly, when being thorough is what makes the difference.

Step 2: Take into account the actual serving size. We tend to assume the serving size is based on what people normally eat in one serving. Did you know there are 2.5 servings in one can of Arizona iced tea? Without reading that over, one might assume that one bottle is equivalent to one serving.

Step 3: Calories are important to take into consideration, but they are not always the end-all deciding factor. One needs to consider the amount of calories in a serving compared to the amount of calories from fat. Most healthy foods are low in calories and are even more likely to be low in calories from fat. The nutrition label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. One’s caloric intake depends on many factors like height, weight and physical activity level. To further understand what works best for you individually, log onto and fill out a daily food plan.

Step 4: There are four main types of fat in our food: trans fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. In order to keep blood
cholesterol low, you should replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These healthier fats are found in fish, nuts and liquid vegetable oils. They are considered “healthier” because they provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins and are a great source of energizing fuel.

Step 5: A key to a healthy diet is balance. Many people in this day and age are eating too much food high in empty calories to the point where their bodies are starved of nutrients, meanwhile they are taking in too many calories. So it is still possible to be lacking necessary vitamins and minerals while taking in too many calories. To prevent this pressing health concern, the food’s overall nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C content should be assessed. One food item is unlikely to be high in all five, but less than 5 percent of the recommended daily value for a specific nutrient is considered low. It is important to keep in mind that some foods that are considered to be healthy can provide a lot of one nutrient or smaller amounts of a variety of nutrients.

Step 6: Sugar is next to consider and can be a little tricky. Foods like fruit will have a higher sugar content, but they are natural sugars which will not appear on the ingredients list. Unhealthier foods will have large quantities of added sugar with names like on the ingredients list such as sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, maple syrup and fruit juice concentrate.

Step 7: The ingredients list may be a little intimidating, but is still a focal point in the nutrition label. Ingredients are to be labeled from the largest quantity comparatively in the food product to the second largest and so on. Some red flags are having a sugar, salt, or fat listed as some of the first few ingredients.

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