In this video I discuss how to read food labels and what all of the sections of the label are telling you.
Food labels can be tricky, so it is important to understand what these labels are actually telling you.
The Nutrition Facts Label can be broken into 5 parts; 1) serving size, 2) calories, 3) amount of nutrients, 4) Percent daily value and 5) the footnote portion.
The serving size section tells what 1 serving size actually is, and the total amount of servings in the container. Serving sizes are usually standardized to make it easy to compare similar foods. For instance here are 2 food labels for organic soups, black bean vegetable on the left, chunky vegetable on the right. You can see both list a serving size as 1 cup or 245 grams.
Next is the calories section. Calories are a measurement of energy from food for your body. Here we have the nutrition label for Lucky Charms cereal. Most people grab a bowl, and fill it up near the top, then add in milk paying no attention to serving size.
But, 1 serving size is actually ¾ of a cup of the cereal and ½ cup of non fat milk. According to the serving size section, this would provide 150 total calories, 110 calories from the cereal and 40 calories from the milk. The full bowl of cereal and milk totaled 448 calories. So, 150 calories vs 448 calories, quite a difference.
Amount of nutrients
The next section lists the amount of nutrients in a serving size. Here you will see the macronutrients, Fats, carbohydrates and protein. Macronutrients are what provide calories, or energy for your body. Other items listed usually include cholesterol and sodium, and typically under the carbohydrates section the amount of fiber and sugar are listed.
Cholesterol, sodium and sugar are listed because many people over consume these items, and fiber is listed because most people are deficient in it. The percentages on the right tell you the percentage of the recommended amount of each item, in a serving size. These percentages are based on a person consuming a 2000 calorie diet per day. For instance, the black bean vegetable soup provides 5g of fiber, at 20%.
This means that 1 serving of the soup provides 20% of the recommended amount of fiber most people need per day. Keep in mind that every persons nutrient needs are different.
Percent daily value of micronutrients
Percent of daily value is the next section. This section tells you the percentage of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, in a serving size of the food item. Again, These percentages are based on a person consuming a 2000 calorie diet per day.
If we look at the lucky charms label, we see the cereal provides 10% of the recommend daily value of calcium, with the milk that increases to 25%. So, one serving size of the cereal with the milk will provide 25% of the recommended amount of calcium most people need per day. Again, Keep in mind that every persons nutrient needs are different.
The last part of a food label is the footnote section. Percent daily values are based on 2000 calorie diet. This statement appears on all food labels, as you can see on this cracker label and on this yogurt label. The remaining portion you see on the yogurt label will appear if the size of the label is large enough.
The recommended daily values are listed for several nutrients, and are based on public health experts’ advice. They are listed for 2000 and 2500 calorie diets. The recommended daily values change for the energy nutrients, but stay the same for cholesterol, sodium and potassium.
You can also see that the recommendations for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium are listed as less than, meaning that these are maximum intake recommendations.
I will say this for a 3rd time, only because it is extremely important, every persons nutrient needs are different, an athlete, a runner, or someone that leads a very sedentary lifestyle. All of these people will have different nutrient needs.
And that be the basics on food labels.