Nutrition Labels for Dummies

In 1990 the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was passed, so the USDA and FDA became in charge of deciding what information you need to know about the food you eat. Every food and beverage product must at least contain the following information:

  • Nutrition facts are quantities of protein, fat (saturated, unsaturated, and trans), carbohydrate (sugar and fiber), vitamins, minerals, and serving size

  • Ingredients are contents listed in descending order

  • Product name

  • Manufacturer's name and address

  • Weight, measure, or count of the product

Let’s understand the ‘Nutrition Facts’ in a little more detail:

1. Number of serving per container, or the size of one serving. This helps determine in what quantity we should consume a food product and still be on our protocol. When we journal we know the number of servings we ate, so we can determine the total calories consumed accurately.

2. Calories: The number of calories mentioned on the box is associated with one serving size only, and total calories consumed will depend on how many servings we eat


3. Calories from Fat: Labels indicate the type of fat calories come from. They indicate the amount of saturated, unsaturated, and trans-fat in each serving. Studies show that intake of trans fatty acids, are like the intake of saturated fatty acids, which increases low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) in the blood. An elevated LDL-C increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

4. Sodium: For a heart healthy diet, you should always try to keep your sodium intake to about 2300 mg per day. A sodium level of 140 mg or less on the nutrition facts label is considered low sodium. This is an essential number to look for when reading the labels

5. Total Carbohydrates: it is a combination of carbs, dietary fiber, sugars and sugar alcohols. This can be confusing. The grams of sugar listed include both natural sugars, from fruit or milk, and added sugars.

6. Net Carbohydrate: This metric is not written on the food label. Net Carbs are the most important thing to measure when losing weight. It requires a basic calculation which looks like:

Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber – Sugar Alcohols

7. Protein: Protein is a component of every cell in the human body and is necessary for proper growth and development, especially during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. Talk to your Doctor as this number can vary for different people.

Easy steps to help you read the label:

Step 1: Look at the serving size. Compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat

Step 2: Look at the calories

Step 3: Try to eat less fat, especially trans fat

Step 4: Consume less sugar and more fiber


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