Reading Nutrition Labels Effectively

Reading Nutrition Labels Effectively

We’ve talked in depth about weight loss as a lifestyle, now we are going to help you maintain that lifestyle by applying one of the most important aspects of grocery shopping, reading the nutrition label. Why is reading the nutrition label so important and what can it do for you other than double your in-store time? Well friends, you might be surprised to know how much easier it can make your life when deciding between brands and food options. We’ll teach you what to look for and how to quickly skim a nutrition label to make your shopping trip/ online shopping that much easier.

There are 4 important sections on a Nutrition label that we will cover in depth. This will include the servings size, the calorie index, the listed nutrients, and the daily value percentage column.

Nutrition Label

We always start by looking at the serving size first. In the above example, we can see that there are 4 servings per container and the measured serving size is 1 cup or 227 grams. The reason we start at the serving size is because everything else below is based on 1 serving. That means that the following information will apply only to 1 of the four servings listed. This part of the label helps you maintain portion control.

Moving onto the Calorie index, we can see that the listed calories per serving is 280. That means that consuming 1 cup is equal to consuming 280 calories. For example, let’s say you were purchasing a box of mac n’ cheese and this was the listed nutrition label on the box. If you went home and ate the entire box yourself, you would have consumed 4 servings at 280 calories each. That’s 1120 calories in one box! Which is more than half of a standard daily 2000 calorie diet. Paying attention to this portion of the label will help you log your daily calories.

Below the Listed calories, we will find the individual break down of the nutrients consumed in one portion size.  Here you can quickly view the total fats, fat types, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein amounts.

Eating the right amounts of all the listed nutrients is important for health maintenance. Fats are higher in calories than protein and carbs, so be mindful when picking your meals. The first listed nutrient count is always total fats, followed by the break down of the unhealthy fats.

  • Saturated fats: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13g saturated fat for a daily 2000 calorie diet.
  • Trans Fats: Avoid trans fats as they raise your bad cholesterol and put you at greater risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.


Dietary needs vary greatly from person to person, so consider carefully how much cholesterol, carbohydrates, sodium, fibers, sugar, and protein you should be consuming. Each can do their part to help or harm your health.

The Daily Value Percentage column is based on a 2000 calorie diet. If you are maintaining a diet that is significantly below 2000 calories, keep in mind that the listed percentages are going to be much higher for you. For those on a weight loss plan your calorie intake should be as follows:

  • Sedentary: Goal weight x 5 = Daily calorie requirements
  • Moderately Active: Goal weight x 6= Daily calorie requirements
  • Very Active: Goal weight x 7 = Daily calorie requirements


When deciding between packaged food options keep in mind that daily value percentages less than 5% are low and percentages over 20% are high. A general guideline to follow is to watch for percentages that are more than a quarter, or 25%, of your daily nutrition requirements. If one serving contains 33% of your daily sodium needs, you should be mindful of any additional sodium consumed. Sodium is essential to help our bodies manage water and electrical function but too much can cause hypertension and high blood pressure. Look for foods that have a higher %DV in dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium and have a lower %DV in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Nutrition labels can be great guide to directing you away from bad food and toward the better options available to you and your family. We hope this nutrition label guide will help you stay on track with your weigh loss lifestyle and feel more confident about grocery shopping successfully.

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