Reading food labels is an essential skill that can help you make healthier food choices. Food labels provide important information about the nutrients and ingredients in packaged foods, allowing you to make informed decisions about what you eat. In this article, we will explore how to read food labels and what to look for when making healthy choices.

Check the Serving Size

The serving size is the first piece of information you should look for on a food label. The serving size is important because it tells you how much of the food you should eat to get the amount of nutrients listed on the label. Be sure to pay attention to the serving size and compare it to the amount you actually eat to get an accurate understanding of the nutrients you’re consuming.

Look for Calories

Calories are a measure of the energy in food. Knowing the number of calories in a serving can help you manage your weight and make healthier food choices. It’s important to keep in mind that the number of calories listed on the label is for one serving, so if you eat more than one serving, you need to adjust the calorie count accordingly.

Understand the Nutrients

Food labels provide information about the nutrients in a serving of food. The most important nutrients to look for on a food label are

  • Total fat: This includes saturated and trans fats, which can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Sodium: Eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, but eating too many can lead to weight gain. Look for foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar.
  • Protein: Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, but be mindful of the amount of protein you consume as too much can put a strain on your kidneys.

Read the Ingredients List

The ingredients list provides information about what’s in a food product. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, with the most abundant ingredient listed first. Look for products with whole food ingredients and avoid those that contain added sugars, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

Watch for Misleading Claims

Food labels can be misleading, so it’s important to be aware of marketing tactics used by food companies. For example, “low-fat” or “low-sugar” foods may still be high in calories or contain unhealthy ingredients. Be sure to read the label carefully and look beyond the front-of-package claims.

Use Online Resources

There are several online resources available to help you read food labels and make healthier choices. The USDA’s FoodData Central is a comprehensive database that provides nutrition information for thousands of food products.

Other resources include the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores database and the Fooducate app, which provides a letter grade and detailed nutrition information for thousands of food products.

Reading food labels is an essential skill for making healthy food choices. Be sure to check the serving size, calories, and nutrients, and read the ingredients list carefully. Watch for misleading claims and use online resources to help you make informed decisions about what you eat.

With a little practice, reading food labels can become second nature and help you make healthier choices for a lifetime.