Doing your best to make healthy choices but confused by how to read the nutrition label mumbo-jumbo on the back of your favorite snacks? Understanding nutrition labels can be difficult, so we pulled together our top five tips on how to read food labels for healthy eating. With our help, you’ll know exactly what you’re putting in your shopping cart. Here’s our guide to food labels, explained!

 

1. Serving size, serving size, serving size

Make the serving size your first stop on the nutrition label. The serving size is the key to reading the rest of the nutrition label. It will tell you both the size of a single serving and the number of servings in the container. So what does “per serving” mean? If the package lists 1 cup as the serving size and there are 2 servings in the package, you know the nutrition information (fat, calories, protein, carbs) listed on the label is for 1 cup of the item rather than for the entire package. If you plan to eat the entire package, you then know to double all of the values listed. If you plan to eat only half of the serving size, you then know to divide the values listed in half.

 

2. Read the full ingredients list.

Make sure you read the full list on your ingredients label – it’s the best way to know exactly what you’re eating. So, how are ingredients listed on a food label? Ingredients are listed by weight in descending order, so the ingredient that weighs the most will be first, and the ingredient that weighs the least will be listed last. So, if sugar is the first ingredient listed on the label, that food is predominantly made of sugar.

 

3. Sugar comes in all shapes and sizes (and names, too).

One of the most common nutrition label questions is how to spot sugar on a nutrition label. As you may know, sugar is disguised by about 60 different names in the ingredients list of a nutrition label. If you see things like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, nectar, dextrose, corn sweetener, or evaporated cane juice, those are just fancy terms for sugar. Some sugar occurs naturally in foods, like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, and those will be listed in the ingredients list as well.

 

4. Choose 100% whole grains.

When you’re learning how to read food labels for healthy eating, here’s a tip. If you’re looking for a nice healthy bread to take home from the bakery aisle, look for “100 percent whole grain” rather than “made with whole grains.” This seems like the same thing, huh? But it’s not! If the label says “made with whole grains,” it could mean that the product has just a little bit of whole grain. Because there are often a lot of different things added to bread, the best way to avoid things like white or refined flour creeping into your bread is to look for “100% whole grain” on the food label.

 

5. Take low-fat, low-calorie, or sugar-free food labels with a grain of salt.

While low-calorie, reduced-fat and sugar-free products can help you reach your health goals, make sure you study the rest of the nutrition facts label before eating them, as these buzzwords can also be deceiving. Reduced-fat items can have added salt or sugar because when the manufactures take the fat out, it also takes out some of the flavor. To counteract this, they’ll add in extra things to keep it tasty. So, by all means: dig into that reduced-fat or low-calorie decadence, but remember to read the rest of the label for those sneaky added ingredients so you can make an informed decision.

 

We hope these tips help you understand how to read nutrition labels so you can make informed decisions about the foods you buy and eat. Once you’re home with your grocery haul, follow our 7 Tips To Keep Your Veggies Fresh Longer.