If you are just starting out on your new healthy lifestyle, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. Among the different exercise, nutrition tips, and other advice you are receiving, you likely find yourself checking out the nutrition labels of everything you consider buying. Of course, these labels can become extremely confusing if you don’t know what you look for. Instead of buying the right foods to get the results you want, you may end up just picking things up because they sound healthy.
To help guide you through this, it is important that you realize how to properly read through a nutrition label. But understanding the different aspects of the label, you can get a better feel for which foods are good for you and which ones to avoid. With that in mind, here are a few helpful tips to get you started on reading those nutrition labels.
Look First at Serving Sizes
The first thing to look at is the serving size on the package. This is one of the ways that unhealthy snack foods will often get you. Though a single serving might only have a few grams of fat, the serving size will reveal just how small that serving is intended to be. Many times, those little snacks you grab out of the vending machine actually hold 3-4 servings. In other words, that 10% of your daily fat is all of a sudden at 40% for the entire package. Before you do anything, consider the serving size.
Paying Attention to Daily Values
Before proceeding beyond this, remember that all percentages listed on nutritional labels are based around a 2,000 calorie diet. If you are looking to lose weight, you are likely not sticking to a 2,000 calorie diet. In fact, many people with smaller frames might not ever want to follow this sort of diet. On the other hand, those who have a naturally larger frame or spend much more time burning calories may want more than 2,000 calories in their diet. As you read the percentages, keep this in mind.
Basic Nutrition Facts
Once you understand these two foundational points, you can begin looking at the basic nutrition facts. All nutrition labels begin with calories and next to that are the calories from fat. This is especially important to pay attention to if you are trying to lose weight, as you want to maintain a calorie count that is below what your body needs. After this, you will see total fat and underneath this you will find saturated and trans fat. Though saturated fat is not necessarily bad, keep an eye out and avoid that trans fat.
Next, all labels include cholesterol and sodium. Remember, too much of these may be bad, but the body does need both to function properly, so don’t be afraid as long as the numbers aren’t too high. Next, you will find total carbohydrates, which is broken into dietary fiber and sugar. Naturally, you want food with more fiber and less sugar. Finally, you find the protein, which is the building block of muscle. Beneath this, labels also include percentage information for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron.
Other Nutritional Information
Beyond this, the label will include any other pertinent information. You can read below to find other specialized vitamins or minerals the food might contain. Additionally, you should check the ingredient list to make sure you really know what you are eating. If you follow all of this, you will be better equipped to read those misleading nutritional labels and truly decide whether something is right for your diet or not. If you are unsure, the answer is probably “no.”