Reading Food Nutritional Labels

I often mention how important it is to get the proper nutrients, know your portion sizes and understand nutritional labels. Today I wanted to take some time to go over the nutritional label and how to go about reading it. We are going to start with the top and go down. Here is a example label that you can refer back to as we go through the different sections. 

Serving Size

The first section of the nutritional label will tell you the serving size that counts as one serving. One serving has the information provided in the rest of the label. It will also tell you how many serving are in the container.

Here one serving of the food is 2/3 cups and there are a total of 8 servings in the box. ​Compare your portion size to the serving size. If the serving size is 1 cup and you usually eat two cups that means you are getting twice the calories, fat, carbs, etc. that are listed. 

Calories

This is the calories per serving. If you are trying to lose weight and limit your calorie intake you will want to pay attention to this number. ​

Percent Daily Values

These values can be used as a guide to see how well the food fits your meal plan requirements. If you are eating a low carb diet, carb content should be low. If you are on a high protein diet, look for foods with a higher protein content. 

  • Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5 percent DV of fat provides 5 percent of the total fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat.
  • These values are for an entire day, not just one meal
  • Your requirements may differ than these. You might be on a diet that requires less than 2,000 daily calories. 
Total Fat and Sodium

This is the first item listed under Calories. You will want to limit the amount of fat you eat. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat, as little trans fat as possible, and no more than 1,500 mg of sodium.

Total Carbs, Vitamins and Minerals

Limit the total sugar that you get. Fiber, Protein and the vitamins/minerals are good for you. Make sure that you get enough of these daily. 

Related: How to Cut Sugar From Your Diet​

Ingredient List

Under this nutritional label is where you will find all the ingredients that where used to make the food in the box. The first ingredients listed are make up more of the food. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first.