Dissecting the Food Label: 4 Areas You Want to Look At

Couple buying frozen food in supermarket.You’ve just started a diet and it’s your first trip to the grocery store since making the decision to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Your enthusiasm is quickly turned to frustration as you agonize over the food labels of each item you pick up.

“% DV — What does that mean?”
“0 grams of trans fat — That’s gotta be healthy, right?”
“20 servings per box? OK, that seems like I’m getting a lot for my money.”

If you can sympathize with this common scenario, take a look at how to decipher food labels, and the role they play in picking healthy foods that will help you reach your weight loss goals.

Cracking the Code

Don’t get overwhelmed by all the information found on food labels. Everything you need to know can be broken down into four main categories:

  • Serving Size
  • Calories
  • Nutrients
  • Percent Daily Values

Once you understand how these areas will work for you and your health plan, you’ll be reading labels like a professional and moving through the grocery store aisles with ease!

Serving Size

Q: If a bag of chips has a serving size of 20 per bag, that seems like a lot and a good deal considering the price, right?

A: While 20 servings per bag may seem like a lot at first glance, you’ve also got to take into consideration what the serving size is. If the serving size is 10 chips, and you eat twice that amount in one sitting, you’re really getting 10 servings per bag which isn’t a great deal.

Not to mention, you’re doubling the calories, nutrients, and percent daily values listed on the label as well. If you’re trying to stick to a diet, make sure you pay attention to the recommended serving size and break out your measuring cups to make sure you’re staying on track!


Q: If I’m cutting calories, is aiming for snacks that contain 100-150 calories per serving a healthy choice?

A: Snacks that contain 100-150 calories per serving can certainly be a healthy choice. However, pay close attention not just to the calorie count in one serving, but also to the calories from fat listed.

If you’ve got an item that contains 100 calories, but 60 of those calories are from fat, it’s probably not the best option to help you lose weight. Look for items that contain a low percentage of calories from fat, rather than just overall “low” calories.


Q: When it comes to getting nutrients, which ones do I want more of and which ones should I try to avoid?

A: According to the American Heart Association, you want to limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They recommend picking items with no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat and no more than 1,500 mg of sodium.

You want to choose foods rich in vitamins, fibers, calcium, and iron. Bonus points if your items are low in added sugars!

Percent Daily Values

Q: What exactly does the %DV mean?

A: The percent daily value (%DV) tells you what percent of the nutrient you are getting based on a standard, 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. If you are trying to lose weight, or simply maintain your weight, choose foods that have a low percentage (less than 5%) of fat and sodium and a high percentage (more than 20%) of fiber and vitamins.

Before Hitting the Grocery Store, Stop By the Office

At LeBauer HealthCare we believe that routine check ups play an important role in your overall health. Understanding how to read food labels is important, but it’s equally important for you to  know how to apply that information based on your body’s current health needs.

Schedule an appointment with us today.

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