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How to Read Nutrition Labels

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

A guide to understanding the ingredients in your food.

This January, I wanted to figure out a new year's resolution, something that I could add to my toolbox of healthy lifestyle hacks.

Although I have a balanced diet and prepare most of my food at home, I feel like we can always make small improvements in our nutrition and lifestyle. No matter where we are in our journey, from just starting out to years of experience, we can reflect on where we are with our personal health.

My resolution for this year is to read labels and become more aware of the food I’m buying.

Why bother reading the label?

Manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy, so it’s really important to be aware of what’s in your food.

The easiest way to break this down was a step-by-step process:

  1. Start to read labels. Know where to find them on the packaging. (Usually on the back or the side)

  2. Read carefully and with understanding. Know why you’re reading the label. Are you looking for a particular ingredient that you are allergic or sensitive to?

  3. Labels come jam packed with useful information, covering everything from suggested serving sizes, daily value of vitamins and minerals, and calorie content per serving.

  4. Keep in mind vitamins and minerals are added to processed foods and aren’t naturally found in this food. The quality of added supplements are oftentimes questionable and sometimes unnecessary. Our bodies often struggle to absorb these added vitamins. It’s always easier for our bodies to absorb vitamins from whole and natural foods.

  5. Check the label for modified ingredients, which are always GMO.

  6. Check the fat content and what type of oil is being used. Seed and vegetable oils (think canola, sunflower, grape seed oil, etc) are poorer quality and usually come from a modified source and are highly inflammatory. Instead, look for olive oil, ghee butter and coconut butter/oil.

  7. Ingredients list – items are listed in order from largest amount to smallest amount.

  8. The shorter the ingredients list, the better! If the list of ingredients is long this suggests the food is highly processed.

  9. Sugar can be present in food naturally or can be added. Always check the ingredient list and nutrition fact table.

Here is an example of how a nutrition label looks, and what information we can find there.

What's on a nutrition label?

Let's have a look at the image below:

First, at the top, we have serving information, then calories, then a list of nutrients, and finally a quick guide to the percentage of daily value.

As you can tell from this ingredients list, sugar is listed first. This means that sugar is used in the largest amount. If you continue reading the list, you will also notice they have added stevia, which is another type of sweetener. That’s a lot of sugar in one food product!

If reading these labels has shocked you, don’t worry! There are steps you can take to reduce the amount of unhealthy ingredients and processed food we eat, especially when you are hoping your kids have a healthy and convenient breakfast to start their day.

One suggestion is to prepare more of your meals from scratch. This way you can control what goes into your meals, and what ingredients you want to use to prepare it. You can avoid and eliminate chemicals additives, sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, and unhealthy fat.

Having better control over what we eat is the valuable investment in our health. We are our own best health advocates because at the end of the day, no one will care more about our health than us.

Try these steps and before long you will be a pro at deciphering packaging labels. We all resort to convenient foods here and there, and that’s no crime! Let’s just try to be more aware of that we are consuming so that we can eat better.


1 Comment

Great healthy lifehacks, I will pay attention to this!!

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