Decipher the Language of Food Labels

Jan 30 23:33 2008 Cathy Wilson Print This Article

Understanding and deciphering the language of food labels can be tricky. Do you know exactly what "Light" really means? You can have the best diet yet be tripped up by making assumptions about food labels. Know exactly what you're getting (and not getting) in the food that you eat. Knowledge is power and empower yourself with the ability to decipher the language of food labels.

You're at the grocery store shopping for your nutritious and healthy food. You check the labels on your food choices before putting into your cart. You're being very diligent and feel proud of yourself. Even though you check the labels and believe it is a healthy choice,Guest Posting is it? You're taking charge of your health and losing weight. That means to know how to read food labels and make an informed choice of what is best for your body and weight loss.

The first thing to remember in learning the language of labels is that you want to make your calories count. Your goal is to obtain the most nutrition for your nutrition calories. Essentially, you are spending your calories for the most nutrition possible.

Food labels were created to give consumers nutritional information to be of assistance in making decisions on which food choices are best for them. Sounds simple right? You can make the information work for you. There is a wealth of information on the labels for you once you know how to make sense of it all.

Let's look at the food label for a certain product we are considering to purchase. Know your nutrition facts when it comes to food labels. At first glance, it looks fine. Only 250 calories for this one item, right? Not so fast! There are three items to consider before placing this particular item in your shopping cart.

1. Check the serving and calories.

2. What's in it for you?

3. Does it fit your nutrition goal?

1. CHECK THE SERVING AND CALORIES. Only 250 calories for this item from your daily caloric intake? Look at the serving size on this item and how many servings it contains. In our example, there are 2 servings at 250 calories PER EACH serving. In this item, there are a total of 500 calories and not 250 as it may first appear.

2. WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Next, look at the rest of the nutritional facts such as how much total fat, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and protein are contained in this product. Back to our example, there are 12 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrates, zero grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugars and 5 grams of protein PER SERVING which is 2 servings for the entire item. Since the item has 2 servings total, if you eat the entire package, you would double the calories, fat, carbs, sugars, fiber and protein for the day.

Also, check the saturated fat, sodium and other nutritional information such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron that are contained in this item.

For our translation of this food label, our nutrition information is for the entire package:

Total Calories: 500 calories, Total Fat: 24 grams, Total Carbohydrates: 62 grams, Total Sugars: 10 grams, Total Protein: 10 grams, Total Saturated Fat: 6 grams, Total Trans Fat: 6 grams, Total Cholesterol: 60 mg., Total Sodium: 940 grams, Total Dietary Fiber: 0 grams.

Remember, it is more than just calories; it is the big picture of all nutrients that count too.

3. DOES IT FIT YOUR NUTRITION GOAL? Now that you have deciphered exactly what's in this product, you get to decide if it fits your nutrition program. Compare the calories on the label and the nutrients you'll be getting to decide if this food is worth eating? Can you eat only one serving or would you want to eat the entire package? Combine all the information and make the decision if this is a smart choice that enhances your health and weight loss goals. Do you put it in your shopping cart and take home or do you leave it on the shelf?

Other tips to remember would be to determine the number of calories derived from fat, protein and carbohydrates as follows:

Each gram of fat: 9 calories

Each gram of carbohydrate: 4 calories

Each gram of protein: 4 calories

Multiply the number of grams contained in a product by these calories per gram and you'll see how the total caloric breakdown shakes out.

A common pitfall, especially with small packages, is to assume there is only one serving because the package is small. As an example, if you were to eat a bag of pretzels from a vending machine, you might find it contains 2.5 servings. You would need to multiply the numbers by 2.5 to see what's really in that small bag.

The FDA regulates the use of phrases and terms on product packaging. Here's what they really mean:

Sugar free: Less than .5 grams of sugar per serving.

Calorie Free = Less than 5 calories per serving.

Low Calorie = 40 calories or less per serving.

Light or Lite = 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat than the referenced food.

Fat Free = Less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving.

Low Fat = 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

High Fiber = 5 grams or more of fiber per serving.

By translating the label language information, you know exactly what it all means and can make the smart choices for yourself on your journey to health. Knowledge is power and now, YOU have that power!

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About Article Author

Cathy Wilson
Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson is a weight loss life coach. Cathy lost 147 pounds six years ago. Her passion is helping clients achieve their weight loss and life goals. Cathy works with clients to create a weight loss life plan that is customized to each client. Cathy is a member of the International Coaching Federation, International Association of Coaches, and Obesity Action Coalition. Visit Cathy's website:

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