How to Read Food Labels

Food labels are confusing. I hear it all the time. The key to nutrition label reading is to ensure you are aware of the serving size and servings per container.

From there, once you know how much you plan to consume, you can read the label appropriately. Try reading this sample label for macaroni and cheese.

  • Note: The serving size is 1 cup and that is what the label is written for; but, there are two servings in a container, which is a total of 2 cups in each box.
  • If someone is going to eat the entire container, they must double all the numbers on the food label.
  • The percentages are useful as general quick guides; however, they are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is most suited for a man rather than a woman.
1 cup 2 cups
Calories 250 500
Total Fat 12 grams 24 grams
Saturated Fat 3 grams 6 grams
Trans Fat 1.5 grams 3 grams
Cholesterol 30mg 60mg
Sodium 470mg 940mg
Total Carbohydrates 31 grams 62 grams
Dietary Fiber 0 grams 0 grams
Sugars 5 grams 10 grams
Protein 5 grams 10 grams

Measurement is Your Friend

Measuring your food will help keep your portions controlled. So, whenever you are at home and you have the means to measure, do it! It will give you a better idea of portions and how particular foods look in your bowls, glasses or plates.

Remember, it is not that we are always picking “bad” foods to eat, it is that we are usually eating too much. Be smart and eat for your body, not what your eyes consider a portion or serving.

Knowledge is Power

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has written a report called, “Food Labeling Chaos.” It is 158 pages and details the amount of misleading information from the food industry, including the confusion of reading labels. The Huffington Post writes about the 9 Most Misleading Food Labels, from using the words “All Natural” to “Made With Whole Grains.”

Remember the food companies are trying to sell a product, so stay informed to make better choices.

If you have any questions about reading food labels, please ask me!

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Photo credit: Obradovic and Cascadian Farm

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