Understanding Food Labels


By:Lisa Millar, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, BA, ECE


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There is a lot of information on a Nutrition Facts (food product) label. As consumers, it is important to know how to read these labels so you can feel good about what you are spending your money on and what your family is eating. By law, food labels have to be shown on all food products or anything that is processed or human made.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What do all of those numbers really mean?” Here is a list of some important things to keep in mind when choosing a food product.

1. Serving size– always look at what the serving size is on every product. They are all different, and comparing two similar products may surprise you. You could very easily serve yourself more than the suggested amount. When this does happen, keep in mind that this leads to the intake of extra calories, carbohydrates, fat, and anything else the product consists of.

2. Calories- Where are the majority of the calories coming from? Are they mostly from carbs, fat, or protein? Are they good quality calories? Just because a product is low or high in calories does not necessarily mean that it contains quality ingredients. You have to read the Ingredient List for that information. Not all calories are created equal.

3. Fat– They type of fat found in each product is the main factor here. Choose products with good quality fats. Avoid food products with trans fats, and limit your intake of saturated fat.

4. Carbohydrates– Always check the sugar content found in the carb section of the label. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar! The sugar content of foods can add up very quickly. The amount of fiber in food products is also found under the carbohydrate section of the label.

5. Claims on labels– Be wary of companies that use words like “natural” on their products. Just because something says “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. Read the ingredient list for clues as to how “natural” the product actually is.