How to Understand Food Labels


When you’re on a diet trying to lose weight or avoid certain substances knowing how to read food labels becomes important. Many foods have too much sodium, sugar and carbs and fats. Don’t lose your sanitary trying to figure out how to read food labels. Remember knowing how to understand food labels can help you lose weight.

Label and What They Should Have

They should have the name of the product and name and address of the food manufacturer. It should list the weight of the product or amount in the box or can.  The label should have the serving size and amount of servings.  It should list calories, nutrients,  and percentage daily values.  Label will list fat,  saturated and transfat, chlosterol, and sodium. It will list total carbohydrates including sugar, protein, vitamins and nutrients.


When you look at the label look for saturate fats and Trans fat. If it has any trans-fat leave the product on the shelf. Trans fat increase levels of bad cholesterol and lowers good a bad choice. Don’t just look at the numbers look for ingredients that spell fat. A bad ingredient is hydrogenated vegetable oil and shortening. Keep cookies, crackers and other products that list these ingredients on the supermarket shelf.

Sodium and Fiber

High sodium can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack.  It is also a sign of highly processed food that means not healthy.  Look for products with about 800 or less milligrams per serving. This is a third of the daily limit for sodium which is 2,300. When looking at labels for fiber it is recommended that you look for 3 gram or more per serving.

Portion Size and Calories

The serving size is the amount of crackers you need consume the calories listed on the box. In some product it might be five or twelve. Often a person will consumer far more serving than the portion listed on the box.  It important to not just look at calories but how many vitamins and nutrients a product has when you are eating it.  If you eat two serving of a product you are getting twice the amount of calories. Be careful and eat food in moderation.

Don’t forget to look at the amount of servings in a package.  How many do you consume? Can you consume one a keep it to that?  When you eat two serving of cookies you double the fat, sugar and calories that you consume.  50 calories or less is low, 100 calories is moderate and 400 and higher.


Products with added vitamins are a plus. Vitamin C, Vitamin A, D and nutrients like calcium and iron help with the blood and the body. Not enough of some of these vitamins and nutrients lead to illness.

What is The Daily Value?

This will tell you the amount of each nutrient in every serving of the product.  This is in terms of the recommended daily amount. When you want to consumer less of fat or sodium look for a food product with 5% or lower of the daily value. When you want to consume more look for one that has 20% or more.  Aim low with Tran fats, sodium and sugar. Look for higher daily values for vitamins and minerals. Most information on the label is based on 2,000 calories


This label does not tell you the difference between natural and manufactured sugar.  Look at the ingredient list to see what type of sugar are added. Avoid product with high fructose corn syrup. Products that list sugar, fructose, corn sweetener, brown rice syrup or malt syrup are all forms of sugar. Look for products with less sugar and more natural forms of it.

High sugar product should be left at the store.  When it is the first ingredient on the label it means it has too much.  Products with too many types of sugar are not very healthy.


Most carbohydrates in food products are not complex like the ones found in fruits and vegetables.  Complex carbohydrates break down in the body more slowly than the kind found in cookies and crackers. An example is 20 grams of sugar is equal to 5 teaspoons. Choose products low in sugar to get less carbs.

Total carbohydrates listed will be sugar, complex and fiber. Often the manufacturer carbohydrate numbers are not accurate but estimated. Beware of products claiming low numbers.  Many may appear lower than they really are.

When you read a food nutrition label look for products with low sugar, salt and fat. Always read the ingredients this often tell you where the bad ingredients are hiding. Eat more fresh fruit, vegetable, lean meat, whole grain breads and cereal s, low-fat dairy products and fish. Cut down on packed food and learn how to understand food labels so you find the best products on the market. This will help you to lose weight more effectively. 

By Joan Russell