The Nutrition Facts Label is on the majority of food and beverage products that we consume on a daily basis. Dairy products, deli meats, nuts, breads, juices, and even some alcohol packaging all have the Nutrition Facts Label printed on the back. Have you ever looked at the label and didn’t really understand what you were reading? I don’t blame you! It’s a bit messy looking and if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it all just looks like a long table with random words in it. Let’s break down the Nutrition Facts Label together and see what it’s telling us.
First, let’s look at the top of the label
Here, we see the number of servings per container, the serving size, and the number of calories per serving. The serving size is listed as a suggested tool to be able to determine the amount of nutrients listed further down in the label in the serving. This does NOT mean you need to follow the serving size for the portion you feed yourself! You may be hungrier than what the portion size suggests. It’s there as a tool!
Let’s take an example. You have a box of cold cereal and it says the serving size is 1/2 cup but you serve yourself 1 cup. If you want to know how many grams of protein are in your 1 cup portion of cereal, you have to add double what it says for protein on the label because you are eating two times the serving size. That’s what it’s there for – to help determine the macronutrient and micronutrient level in your portion size. It may require some math, but that’s what a calculator is for!
Next, let’s look in at the middle section of the label
This is where I hear about a lot of confusion, and I get it! There is a lot of information here, so let’s break it down. From the top down in this section we see information about fat, which is separated into saturated fat and trans-fat; cholesterol; sodium; carbohydrates, which is separated into dietary fiber and total sugars (underneath here is where we would see added sugars if it’s in the product); and protein.
The column on the right shows the percent daily value. This is showing us how much a specific nutrient contributes to your daily nutritional requirements. I want to point out that the percent daily value is based on a 2000 calorie diet, and your specific intake may be more or less than that and that is okay! Remember, this is a tool and not a rule.
Finally, let’s look at the bottom of the label
In this section, you will see a list of micronutrients and their contents in the product. These are always listed because they are nutrients that the general public do not consume enough of. This is a method of bringing awareness to the amount of these nutrients in each food product. The micronutrients that you will see listed here are Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium. Their percent daily values are listed as well.
The Bottom Line
Utilize your new-found knowledge of the Nutrition Facts label to help guide you into making smarter food choices. Remember, it’s not about restricting and eliminating certain foods, it’s about my 80:20 mindset and portion control!
Book your free 10-minute consultation with me to learn how you can master reading any Nutrition Facts label for smarter food choices!