There are obvious benefits to knowing what we’re eating, but who really knows how to decode all that information on a nutrition label? We’re here to give you a few pointers on how to appropriately evaluate what you’re putting into your body. It can be quite tricky, but with our 4-step cheat sheet, you’ll be an expert in no time!

01 Start with the Serving Size

Here you’ll notice a number that states the general amount people consume in one sitting, as well as the number of servings provided in the package. It is important to note that if the serving size is ½ cup and you consume 1 cup, you’re receiving double the calories and nutrients of that item.

02 Know your Nutrients

  • Here you’ll notice levels of fats, cholesterol, sodium, etc. It’s important to recognize the nutrients to limit and the nutrients to find notable.
  • Limit your consumption of these: Sodium, saturated fat, trans fat.
  • Get Enough of These: Protein, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins, and minerals.

03 Understand the Ingredients

Foods with more than one single ingredient are required to have an ingredient list. These should be listed in descending order by weight, right next to the nutrition facts.

This comes in handy if you’re trying to avoid certain food items such as gluten, dairy, pork, sugar, artificial sugars, etc. Protip: You may find yourself lured in by “sugar-free” sweets containing ingredients such as maltitol, sorbitol, or xylitol, but be careful of these deceiving treats! The ingredients ending in “itol” are technically sugar alcohols – still a carbohydrate and still likely to affect your blood sugar. Sugar alcohols have a sneaky way of upsetting our stomach if we eat more than the recommended serving size, so tread lightly! We recommend skipping these items in favor of making portion controlled, lesser evil treats at home. Discover some healthy baking swaps here.

It’s also a good way to fact-check promises on the front of the package. For example, quinoa pasta sounds like a lower carb alternative to your usual wheat-based noodle, but some brands sneak in a blend of corn flour and rice flour to improve taste and cut cost. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat the gluten-free pasta alternative, but it’s good to be aware of those carbs!

04 The Significance of % Daily Value

The percentage of each nutrient in one serving of the food item. For instance, a food item with a 7% DV of calcium provides 7% of the total calcium the average person abiding by a 2,000-calorie diet will need in an entire day. It’s important to note that nutrition labels show values based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This number can change depending on your age, gender, level of activity and weight goals.

Depending on your health status, your physician or dietitian may also recommend some nutrients might be increased, decreased, or even avoided. Your Health Advisor can help you clarify and achieve your personal goals.

Check out our interactive nutrition label!