How you should read a nutrition label

nutrition labelWhen you go to a grocery store for your weekly shop or to your local convenience store, do you stop and read a nutrition label for the food you are buying? What most of the people read is the amount of calories, but do you really understand what this means? How important is to look to the rest of the nutrients declared?

By knowing how to read a nutrition label, you will be able to make a decision when choosing a product or to know what you are about to eat, especially if you are in a specific nutritional plan.

Step by step guide to reading a nutrition label:

  1. Serving size on a nutrition label: The serving size or portion size is listed in standard measurements, such as cups, slices or units on a nutrition label. It also shows the quantity in grams of each portion size.  It is important to see servings per package to help you calculate the calories and nutrients in the entire package.  Be sure to check the serving size against what you actually eat, sometimes you eat the entire package that may be more than the serving portion declared.
  2. Calories per serving: It shows the amount of calories in the serving portion and the amount of calories that come from fat. This is an important information to make comparisons between different products, but don’t rule your decisions only because of this. It is more important to take a look into the next nutrients.
  3. % Daily Value: shows how much of a nutrient the serving has in a percentage of what you should be eating per day. This percent is based in a 2000 calorie diet, which is just to use a standard, but is not necessarily your energy requirement. Still it’s useful, so as a guide to follow:
    1. For nutrients, you have to consume less (such as total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium or sugar), look for lower % DV (5 % or less is low)
    2. For nutrients, you have to consume more (such as fiber, vitamins and minerals), look for higher % DV (15 % or more is high)

If you are trying to follow a weight loss plan or trying to eat with less fat and/or sugar, in the total grams per serving, try to look for products with no more than 5-7 g of fat or sugar. And if you are trying to look for products with more fiber or protein on it, look for products with more than 2-3 g of protein or fiber.

It is also important to know how to read the nutrition label, since many products claim to have different characteristics for consumers to buy them. Most of the time these claims are true, but can be confusing for you if you don’t understand them:

  • “Free” means a product has the least possible amount of the declared nutrient
  • “Very Low” and “Low” mean a product has very small amount of the declared nutrient
  • “Reduced” or “Less” mean the product has 25% less of the declared nutrient compared to the  regular version of the product
  • “Light” means that the product has 1/3 fewer calories or ½ less fat or ½ less sodium, compared to a similar product. But be careful since “light” can also refer to the texture, color or flavor of the product

And it’s also important to advice that if a product claims to be “a nutrient free” doesn’t mean it is free of other nutrients. This is something to take care because many consumers buy something that is for example “sugar free” thinking its calorie free, and when you see the amount of fat for example, it is not reduced at all.

One last thing, most of the nutrition facts labels have their nutrient content declaration in the same order, so if your product is written in a different language, you can still know to what nutrient they are referring too, so no excuses if you live in a foreigner country!
Now you can know which product to buy or not to buy by reading the nutrition label, that will make your decisions more intelligent based on what your goal is. 

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About the Author

How you should read a nutrition labelPierre Gagnon practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.

Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them.  Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.

About the Author

BochakornBOCHAKORN BOONSERM (MAAM) began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.

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