Reading Food Labels
You hear how it’s important to read food labels, but seriously, how do you do it? What do you look for? Let’s break it down:
Serving size/ Servings per Container:
The information on the label (calories, fat, sugar, etc) is based off ONE serving. This is important especially when it comes to drinks and individually packaged foods. Most people thing that one serving is that entire 16oz soda or the entire protein bar- when in reality it’s usually only half of that drink or half that protein bar. The official serving size for beverages is 8oz- so if you drink the entire 16oz bottle you need to double all of information on the label. Same goes for small packages of crackers, candy, etc. The serving size is usually much smaller than what you think it is.
Calories, Fat, Protein and Carbs:
Again, along with all of the information on this label, it’s based off ONE serving. You see the total fat per serving as well as the total calories from fat. If an item has 250 calories per serving, and 135 of those are from fat you can see that over half of the calories in that item are from fat (not good!)
Total carbohydrates is again, the total amount of carbs in that serving. Sugar is a carbohydrate so this is included in the total. Natural sources of sugar are included in both the amount of sugar listed and total carbohydrates. Natural sugar could be something like milk or fruit.
When it comes to the amount of sugar in a product, there are two things to consider. First, the amount of sugar per serving- a good rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods with more than 10g of sugar per serving (milk and fruit are excluded- they are not considered processed, fruit juice however, is something to avoid). After you check out the amount of sugar in a serving, look at the ingredients list. If sugar is listed in the first 3 items, ditch it. OR if there are a couple versions of “sugar” in the ingredients list- ditch it as well. Some other words to look for that mean the same thing as “sugar” are: high fructose, raw sugar, syrup, brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, beet sugar, maltodextrin, sucrose.
Fibers are also part of the total carbohydrate count. A product that has 5 grams or more of fiber in a serving is considered a “good source” of fiber.
% of Daily Value:
The % of daily value is the amount found in that product based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Now this is a problem. Most people DO NOT NEED 2,000 calories. In fact, most people should consume MUCH LESS than 2,000 calories. Obviously this varies a little from person to person, but the average female needs about 1,500 calories.
But anyways, back to % of daily value..here’s an example. One serving (a cup) of creamy broccoli soup has 250 calories and 15 grams of fat. Now, 15 grams of fat is 25% of the amount of fat you should consume over an entire day! Can you imagine that? Hopefully you’re not hungry! If you eat 2 cups of this soup, you’ve used up 50% of your total fat intake for a day. Add two servings of peanut butter (4 tbsp) and you’ve hit 100%. Could you imagine eating 2 cups of soup and 4 scoops of peanut butter all day? Yikes.
Sometimes I need visuals to fully grasp “food concepts”, so here’s a few for you:
-every 5 grams of fat is equal to one teaspoon (imagine a teaspoon of butter. Yuck!)
-every 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon (a 16oz soda or tea might have as many as 30 grams of sugar per serving (8oz). If you’re drinking that entire 16oz bottle, you’re looking at 60 grams of sugar- FIFTEEN TEASPOONS of sugar or just under 1/3 cup.)
To good health!