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Food Labels

Food Labels

Nowadays, everybody is concerned about something; cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc. Eating 'good-for-you foods' has proven to be a very popular choice to staying healthy and we have relied more on the nutritional information provided on food labels to achieve this.

However, reading and 'deciphering' what appears on these food labels can be pretty intimidating for those who are just finding there way into the trend. More often than not, you will run into ingredients that you're just not be familiar with. Manufacturers also have a tendency to use sneaky ways of hiding the contents of the food within the food label.

It's critical that you know and understand what kind and how ingredients are used in these foods that you plan on consuming. Learn the technical terms and find out if the unfamiliar ingredients are good or bad for you and your health. Here's a few tips to help get you on your way.

What Is a Serving?

You can usually find the serving size at the top of the food label. This serving varies depending on the manufacturer as well as the type of food it is representing. The serving size is what the rest of the information on the food label is based on. Here's an example (Orange Juice); the serving size is 250 ml, the calories declaration is 130 and the vitamin C content is 100%. According to these food label information; for every 250 ml that you consume, you will intake 130 calories and 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.


Many people like to count their daily calories and this information is usually one of the first that they will provide for you on a food label. They will also show you how much of those calories comes from fat; it is recommended that the average person gets no more than 30% of his/ her daily calories from fat. Keep in mind that this section usually won't tell you if you are eating unsaturated or saturated fat.

Daily Values

When you look at the food label, you will see that the right side has a list of percentages. These percentages represent the percent daily values (%DV) of the nutrient defined on the left hand column. Percent daily values tell you how much each serving will give you of the particular nutrient compared to how much the average person needs for an entire day. Use this section of the food label to figure out which foods will benefit you the most depending on what you are looking for. If you want to lower your sodium intake, simply pick the food with the lower percentage. If you want to maximize your protien intake, take the one with the higher percentage. Aim to get at least the 100% daily for things such as vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and fiber. However try to eat less than the 100% on fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Common Mistakes

It is very easy to make a mistake when reading the food label. Here are a few of the common mistakes made:

A food label that states that the food is reduced fat or sodium, for example. This simply means that the amount of fat or sodium was reduced, this doesn't mean that this food is low fat or low sodium.

The percent daily value of fat and the percentage of calories from fat is two completely different things. A %DV of 10% means that one serving will represent 10% of all the fat that you need for the day, not that 10% of the calories comes from fat.

Keep in mind that alot of foods have sugar naturally so don't assume that the amount of sugar on the food label means that this was added.

Food Label Lingo

Here's a list of common phrases you may find on a food label and what they actually mean.

No fat or fat free: Contains less than 1/2 a gram of fat per serving.

Lower or reduced fat: Contains at least 25 percent less per serving than the original version.

Low fat : Contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving.

Lite: Contains 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat per serving of the original version.

No calories or calorie free: Contains less than 5 calories per serving.

Low calories: Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version.

Sugar free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving.

Reduced sugar: Contains at least 25% less sugar per serving than the original version.

No preservatives: Contains no chemical or natural preservatives.

No preservatives added: Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. May still contain natural preservatives.

Low sodium: Contains less than 140 mgs of sodium per serving.

No salt or salt free: Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving.

High fiber: 5 g or more per serving.

Good source of fiber: 2.5 g to 4.9 g. per serving.

More or added fiber: Contains at least 2.5 g more per serving than the original version.

Reading food labels may feel useless at first, especially if your not familiar with many of the ingredients and terms. But in time you will begin to do it naturally without even thinking about it. You will eventually learn how much of what nutrient you need depending on the food as well as figuring out what's important information as oppose to what's useless to you and your particular aim.

Don't miss John Dee's article on Camping with Toddlers

About the Author: John Dee also writes articles in other subjects such as Camping, Dieting and Web Design

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