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Understanding A Nutrition Label


In high school I took a business law class. What stuck with me over 40 years later is the Latin phrase caveat emptor. The translation means buyer beware.


One of the best ways to undermine your attempts to achieve your goals for improved eating habits, improving health and weight loss is not knowing what is in the food you are eating. Knowing how to read a food label will help you stay on track. Foods are marketed for many health benefits including heart healthy, gluten free, low fat, muscle building, energy to name a few. Do you trust the marketing description that appears on the package to provide you with what is advertised? After reading this series you will understand why it is important to be aware what is in the food product you are purchasing.


This article will introduce the basics with future articles going into greater details.


At the top of the nutrition facts label you will find the number of servings and the serving size. Pay close attention to the number of servings. When trying to control your total calories or a specific macro nutrient not being aware of the number of servings can wreck-havoc on your diet. The reason is if you assume what you are eating, or drinking is one serving you might be getting two to three or more times the calories.


Next is total calories. Be aware this is per serving. If there is more than one serving than the number of calories you ingest will be the number of servings, you eat times the calories. For example, 100 calories per serving x 2 servings eaten equals 200 calories.


The three macro nutrients Fat, Carbohydrate and Protein are listed next on the nutrition label. Total Fat will be broken down into saturated monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans-fat. Total carbohydrates will be broken down into dietary fiber and total sugars. Part of total sugars is added sugars. This will be discussed at length in the next article due the impact added sugars has on health and the success of your diet. Protein is the last macronutrient listed.


Certain vitamins and minerals are also listed. The right-hand column provides a percentage of the daily value (DV). The DV is based on how much would be provided in a serving of food for a daily diet of 2000 calories a day. You can use the DV to track if you are getting enough of the macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in your diet.

Outside the nutrition label is a listing of all the ingredients. The ingredient amounts are not provided but they are listed from highest first to lowest. Here you will find the additives that preserve the food, types of oils and types of sweeteners to name just a few.

Outside the nutrition facts label is a listing of all the ingredients. The ingredients list can be at the top, bottom or along the side of the package. The ingredient amounts are not provided but they are listed from highest first to lowest. Here you will find the additives that preserve the food, types of oils and types of sweeteners to name just a few. Knowing what ingredients are in the food or drink will help you determine if the product is healthy and/or can cause an allergic reaction. Personally, I am allergic to cinnamon. Even if it's the last ingredient listed and is only in trace amounts my body reacts with systemic itching. For me checking the ingredients helps avoid a reaction.


As you become more aware how to read a nutrition label you will be able to make more informed decisions about the food and beverages you purchase. This is an important tool for staying on track to eating healthy, losing weight, improving energy level and overall health.


The next article will dive into the macronutrients. For additional assistance for understanding nutrition labels or for any nutrition questions give me a call at 215-830-9997.


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