How to read a Nutrition Label for weight loss.

How to read a Nutrition label has always been pretty confusing and cryptic at times. I will try my best to break it down as much as possible to help any readers understand these labels better than they did yesterday.

Let’s get started.

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Serving Size.

Ok, so the first thing I want everyone to look at is right under the Nutrition Facts, this is the serving size. What does that mean? This is how much of the product you need to consume to equal one serving. In this case with these Flaming hot Cheetos you need to consume 28 grams or approximately 21 chips. Which is really easy to do! I know for a fact that when I ate these all the time I was eating however many I grabbed with my fingertips which was about 3-5 at a time… Someone tell me i’m not the only one lol. Remember if 21 is a serving size, I basically ate a serving size by reaching into the bag 5 times.

Servings per container

Next on the list is the servings per container, this one is the tricky one that not many people pay attention to. This number is basically the amount in the container, which for these chips is 9 servings. This means that if you wanted to know about how many chips are in the container you would multiply 9 (Servings per container) x 21 (Serving Size) which is about 189 chips.

The servings per container is extremely important! I’ll tell you why in the next section.

Calories and Calories from fat

This may be the only thing that most people look at when deciding to buy something and where many people go wrong. Very wrong… Let me tell you why.

These chips have 170 calories. Which doesn’t sound too bad right? Wrong! That’s 170 calories per serving, remember that easy to eat 21 chips per serving? Yea, that’s 170 calories. So if you decided to eat the whole bag in one sitting like I did if I opened the bag. You are consuming a whopping 1,530 calories! That’s insane! especially since this is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Most diets put you at a calorie deficit to lose weight. So less than 1,500 would be more accurate. This means that if you were going for a weight loss diet of 1,500 or less you would be in a surplus to gain weight by 30 calories.

This is a clever marketing trick you should be aware of.

Some labels will show how much of the calories is derived from fats next to the amount of calories.

Total fatĀ 

Here you will see the total fat per serving, which is 11 grams or 14% of a 2,000 calorie diet if you look to the left of total fat. So, 11 grams is 14% of a 2,000 calorie diet. Keep in mind that if you did happen to eat the whole bag of 9 servings, you’re looking at 99 grams which is 126% of a 2,000 calorie diet. I hope you are starting to see where you can go terribly wrong when not reading the label correctly.

Also, I would like to remind you that not all fat is bad for you, many fats are good for you, nuts, coconuts, avocado, egg yolks, fish like salmon and certain oils all have good fats in them. The fat you really want to avoid is any trans fat. Trans fat has been linked to heart disease and all kinds of other health conditions, try to avoid it at all costs.

Saturated fats on the other hand are mostly not bad for you. It has just been wrongly accused of being the cause of many health diseases that have since been proven wrong.

But this leaves the question, if the label only shows saturated fats and trans fats which only make up 8% of the total fat of 14% wheres the other 6%? Well the label doesn’t show all the other fats that are mostly healthy for you and should be less of a concern on the label . These are:

  1. Saturated Fat
  2. Trans Fat
  3. Monounsaturated Fat
  4. Polyunsaturated Fat
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  6. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Now to the next half of the label.

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Cholesterol and Sodium

Next you will see cholesterol and sodium, now remember these are based on one serving. Once again repetition is one of the best ways to learn so i’ll write it out again. Sodium being 11% of your daily intake with one serving makes it 99% of your daily intake for the entire bag. That is definitely an excessive amount.

Total Carbohydrates

Carb for short, are the breads, grains, fibers, and sugars in the food. The first section you see shows the dietary fiber. Having a good amount of Dietary Fiber is a good thing as it helps with digestion and satisfaction from your meals.

Right under dietary fibers is what you really have to pay attention to, this section is the Sugars. The total sugars you are consuming is important to watch out for because like trans fat, it is linked to all kinds of health problems.

Another thing to watch out for is that if you eat a food with a lot of Total carbs in it and not that much Dietary Fiber, even though it’s not labeled as sugar it will function similar to it. These type of carbs are called “Simple Carbs” and this is why you will need to watch out for unrefined carbs like white bread and pasta. These chips have only 1g of fiber and 15g of carbs per serving making it a simple carb.

Protein

This is a good macro nutrients, the best things about it is that you will feel more satisfied with your meals if you eat enough of it and it also promotes building lean muscle tissue, so you will want to eat a good amount of protein. Feel fuller longer and get gainz, you honestly can’t go wrong with protein.

Vitamins andĀ Micro-nutrients

This section of the food you can ignore for the most part, I would try to get these from different sources like fruits and vegetables. I would focus on eating enough fruits and veges everyday to meet all your vitamin requirements.

Leafy greens – Contain Calcium and Iron

Fruits – contain Vitamin C and A

Totals

This section shows you the recommendations of each previous category and could be ignored as it is not that important.

Lastly

At the very bottom of the label you will sometimes see how much calories each macro-nutrient contains.

Protein and Carbs – 4 calories per gram

Fats – 9 calories per gram

Conclusion

Hopefully, it should be safe to say that you have a better general understanding of how to read a food label. Now go out there and make better choices with what you eat while trying to lose weight.

I honestly hope this helps, if anyone has any questions about anything else that I might be able to answer, please feel free to ask in the comments below and i’ll answer it as soon as I can.

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Published by

Martin

My name is Martin, I'm a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist. I've personally experienced the difficulty of weight loss and being a skinny hard gainer. It's really tough to do alone. Allow me to help you as your Health Coach; together we won't fail.

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