• Felicia Newell, RD, CPT, BScAHN

Combating Grocery Store Confusion: How to Read a Nutrition Label

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When you’re at the grocery store deciding between which products to buy, how often do you base your decision on the nutrition label?

Maybe you’re mostly label savvy but still have some questions, or maybe the label still looks like gibberish to you. So how do we know if a product is “good” or “bad” for us? We use these terms loosely, because there really are no good or bad foods. There are more nutritious, and less nutritious ones, and there is a time for each in a healthy diet. The goal is that 80-90% of the diet come from nutritious foods that fuel your body, and 10-20% can be room for eating for other reasons – enjoyment, convenience, etc.

Here is a quick guide to reading a nutrition label to help aid in your decision-making process in the grocery store, to help you get to that 80% goal.

Start at the top...

1. Serving size

Look at the serving size and compare the serving size to that of what you would normally eat. The serving size may be smaller or larger to what you would consider one serving would be. Make sure you consider what portion you would normally eat! For example, if the serving size is one cup, but you normally eat two cups, double the values on the rest of the table. Or maybe the serving size can tell you that your usual portion may be a little large.

2. Calories

This is how much energy is contained in one serving of this product (our bodies convert calories to energy). This amount will vary depending on the type of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) in the product. Do not get too caught up in the calories, as we haven’t read enough of the label at this point to make our decision. It is your overall calorie intake that matters as well.