A Quick Guide to Understanding Your Nutritional Labels

Would you consider your diet as being healthy?  A recent poll taken by National Public Radio found that roughly 75% of Americans ranked their diet as good, very good, or excellent. However, a different study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 80% of Americans are not getting the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet, leading to the rates of obesity in the US are now estimated to be at nearly 36%. Clearly there is a disconnect between what we think we know, and what we eat.

Many Americans believe that the foods they eat are healthier than they really are.

What are nutrition labels and who actually uses them?

One of the easiest ways to know the nutrition of the foods you eat is by reading product nutrition labels. Sadly, a recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that only ⅓ of US citizens actually read them. This same study also found that those who were reading their nutrition labels when grocery shopping tended to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their diet.

A woman's hands hold a packaged cup of food and she is pointing to the nutrition label.
Nutrition labels show us important information about the foods we eat.

Nutrition labels are information about packaged food and beverages that have to be approved by the FDA in order for that item to make it on the shelf in your local grocery store. The labels provide important information about the food you are eating, such as the fat, sugar and vitamins found in the food, the ingredients that make up the food, and how much of it you should actually be eating! Learning to read a nutrition label will help you know if your diet is actually healthy!

Tips for Accurately Reading Nutrition Labels

If you are new to the world of nutrition labels, don't stress! We put together a few things you can start to learn to look for when you are shopping, to help you make healthy decisions.

Start with the Serving Size

You should never have to ask yourself "what is a healthy servings size" when eating packaged foods. Every single nutrition label gives you a recommended serving size! Where a lot of people go wrong is that they are not accurately measuring how much they eat! Plenty of people think they are eating the correct amount, or even worse, never pay attention to it at all. Don’t get lazy with this one, because guessing usually won't cut it. Servings sizes are important because they help guide your eating habits in a way that prevents overconsumption of sugar, fat, calories, etc. You will be surprised how many servings per container there are for the more unhealthy food options!

Make Your Calories Count

Oh yes … calories – the ultimate love/hate relationship. Calories are a measurement of the energy that the food you eat will provide. But all calories are not created equally. Fat, sugar, and protein all make up the calories in our food, but some are better for you than others. Empty calories are found in foods that give you little to no nutrients, so avoid these as much as possible.

Slow Down on the Sugar

Similar to the last tip, make sure you are cutting back on the sugar you eat. Sugar is an example of an “empty calorie” and will give you little to no health benefit. High sugar diets are linked to weight gain, health issues such as heart disease, and even hormone imbalance! Try finding sweets that aren’t packed with all the sugar, like our candy FAVES, made with whole fruits and vegetables!  

Focus on Fats Too

Ignore the fear that all fats make you fat. We promise, they don’t. Fat is actually a vital part of your diet! Healthy fats give your body energy, protect your organs, and help you grow healthy skin and nails. However, it is the unhealthy fats that clog our arteries and cause us to gain weight. On a nutrition label, the unhealthy fats are called saturated fats, and the AHA guidelines state that they should only make up 7% of your total daily calories!

★Pro tip: Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temp, while unhealthy fats are solid!