For a quick overview by dietition/nutritionist Jeff Novick: watch this video or read this article.
Basically, nutrition labels on food are tricky. They are meant to be deceiving in order to cast the food in a positive light. But there are really only 5 things to look at on a food label:
- Serving size
- Calories per serving
- Calories from fat per serving
- Ingredients list
1. Serving size: so you know how accurate the calories are. Calories are listed PER SERVING, so if you can’t eat just 12 Dorito chips and you know you’ll eat at least 36, then you need to multiply your calories appropriately. (In this example, eating 36 individual Dorito chips instead of the recommended serving size of 12 means you’ll consume 3x the calories. 12 chips = 150 calories x 3 = 450 calories. So 36 chips = 450 calories. )
2. Calories per serving
3. Calories from fat per serving: the lower the percentage, the better.
4. Sodium: Sodium in milligrams (mg) should be less than the number of calories.
5. Ingredients list: This is the best place to look for if the product is vegetarian/vegan. It’s also the best place to tell how much sugar is added. Ingredients are ALWAYS listed in order of most to least. So in this photo, this product is mostly made up of corn flour. Water is the 2nd most ingredient, and then Evaporated Cane Juice. Sea Salt is the very last ingredient so therefore contains the least amount of it.
Sugar = cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, honey, fructose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and a whole shitload more: Other Ingredients That Mean Sugar.
The best types of grains to eat are WHOLE grains. If the ingredients list doesn’t say WHOLE, it’s not whole. Even if it looks like dark wheat bread. Choose whole grains whenever you can.
Allergens in the ingredients list:
In 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) went into effect. This law requires food manufacturers to clearly list if their product contains one of the 8 most common ingredients that trigger food allergies:
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
This is good news! If you’re looking to avoid animal products (milk, cheese, eggs, etc), you can quickly look at the bottom of the ingredients list. These ingredients are listed in bold: