A Guide to Interpreting Nutrition Labels

In my Eat by Stars initiative I provide selected nutrition facts for each food.  Here’s what I look for on a nutrition label:

Calories per serving: A quick and easy way to get a picture of a food’s healthfulness. (Be sure to be mindful of serving size and servings per package)

Total Fat: Anything under 5g per serving is decent, but check to see the fat wasn’t replaced by sugars. 

Sodium: Some seemingly healthy foods can pack a huge amount of sodium.  Recall my salt post and avoid these foods.

Total Carbohydrates: One of the most important things to watch is the amount of sugars.  Check total carbs and look at dietary fiber, the difference is sugars.  The higher the sugar, the more processed, the worse it is for you.

Total Protein: Protein does a body good.  Anything over 10g is a great choice.

Vitamins and Minerals: With food fortification common, I don’t pay close attention to these numbers.  Get your dietary vitamins and minerals from foods that don’t come with nutrition labels (veggies, fruit, meat, etc) and from a quality multi-vitamin supplement.

Ingredient list:  A great rule of thumb is the more ingredients, the worse it is for you.  Also pay attention to the first ingredient listed, it’s the ingredient used in the highest quantity.

In summary

When watching a movie there are several factors that go together to make a quality flick: acting ability, actor chemistry, plot, direction, camera angles, pace, and uniqueness. (These combined for a crappy The Hangover Part 2)  

Same thing goes for food. 

No one factor is more important than another.  Rather, it is mix of these factors that creates the overall health profile of a food.  Like watching movies you’ll develop a feel for this judgement with practice.

Please feel free to contact me if you encounter food that puzzles you.  I’ll be happy to give it a star rating. 

Have a wonderful weekend!    

For more info check out the FDA’s in-depth explanation of the nutrition label at: http://www.fda.gov/food/labelingnutrition/consumerinformation/ucm078889.htm

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2 responses to “A Guide to Interpreting Nutrition Labels

  1. Pingback: Big Food BS: Serving Sizes | Essentials of Nutrition

  2. Pingback: Big Food BS: Serving Sizes | Essentials of Nutrition

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