Food labels can seem perplexing, and people often read them with an eye toward different things. Whether you are looking to limit your sugar, cut calories or increase your fiber intake, this guide will help you make sense of the numbers, ingredients and nutritional information packed onto that tiny box. “
By Sophie Egan, The New York Times
When we’re making choices on what foods to buy, many of us don’t give the labels the proper amount of attention. One small fast food study showed that only 60% of people noticed food labels, and only 16% considered them when choosing what to order. Food labels provide us with vital information about a food’s calories, fat content, sodium, and more. If you feel you don’t comprehend food labels because of information overload or not really knowing what you’re looking for, this tutorial from the New York Times might be great read.
The Fundamentals of Food Labels
While food labels contain a massive amount of information, the two most fundamental and important things are the ingredients list and the serving size. The ingredients list is exactly as described, all of the ingredients making up the food in the package. They’re listed in order of greatest volume to least, meaning the first item listed is the most used ingredient. Generally, you can expect the first ingredient to be the most important, but you should always read the entire list to see where unhealthy items like sugars and oils rank on it.
Serving size is the intended amount of food you’re supposed to eat in one sitting, and how many calories that is. Many packages might be misleading when it comes to serving size compared to the size of the container itself. For example, the label for a small tub of ice cream that seems just right for one person lists 230 calories per serving. What you might miss from that is that there are four servings total in the container, meaning you’re actually eating more than 900 calories if you eat it all at once. Always give serving sizes an extra bit of scrutiny to make sure they’re not tricking you into over eating.
There’s far more information food labels have to offer. To learn more, consult the full guide at The New York Times