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How to Read Nutrition Labels for Weight Loss

Written by Diet Bites


Using Nutrition Labels to Lose Weight & Get Healthy

Want a leaner, stronger, healthier body? You can have that starting right now by doing one simple thing.

One simple thing you say? How can achieving so much come from doing so little?

By getting acquainted with food labels and nutrition facts on the products that you purchase.

They aren't as complicated as you may think - and we'll try to simplify them even more.

Food Label, Nutrition Label, Panel & Facts

The food label (also called 'the nutrition label', 'nutrition facts', 'nutrition panel' and 'the product label') contains information that will help you calculate the amount of the product that you consume into your daily diet.

Picture of Nutrition Label

Sample Label for Macaroni & CheeseTitle and Serving Size Information section of label, with number of servings.Calorie section of label, showing number of calories per serving and calories from fat.Total Fat, Saturated Fat Cholesterol, Sodium with Total Carbohydrate section of label, with quantities and % daily values.Remaining Carbohydrates, including Dietary Fiber and Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron section of label with % daily values, and quantities for fiber, sugar and protein.Footnote section of label, indicating quantities of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, and dietary fiber for 2000 and 2500 calorie diets.

What will you find on a Nutrition Label?

The following information should be included on the 'nutrition fact food label':

Nutritional Content of the Product (carbs, sugar, protein, fats, sodium)
Dietary Information for the Product
Serving Size Amounts
Number of Servings (generally measured in cups, pieces)
Calories per Serving
Food Calculations in Metrics, Grams, etc.
Ratio of fat-to-Calories Contained in Food
Trans Fat Info
Carbohydrate Information

The Most Important Information for Dieters Counting Calories on the Nutrition Label

There are three of the above items that Diet Bites feels are most important in the nutrition label because these three impact weight.

What will you find on a Nutrition Label?

This area defines the amount of food within the product that counts as a recommended serving size.

Keep in mind that almost 100% of the time, when a food is wearing a Nutrition Label - it's a commercially processed or refined food.

It may be a can of 100% fruit - which is very easy to place into one of the basic five food groups. It would go into the Fruit Group.

But then there are other products which can be confusing to identify as belonging to a specific food group. In fact, it may have properties which will fit into multiple groups.

An example is a box of potatoes which have special seasonings. The directions may call for milk or other ingredients which are part of other food groups. Therefore, there would be elements of the recipe which would count towards the recommended daily servings for other food groups.


And when we have products which generally require other foods to be combined with it, we also end up with multiple groups. A great example is cereal. When cold, we can enjoy it straight from the box or container as a snack - so that selection will fit into the Grain Group. But when we add milk, we'll have a serving of grains and dairy.

And at times, the product won't fit into any food group. A good example is jelly beans which are about 100% sugar with minimal fat.

Keep in mind that while pre-packaged foods can be convenient, they are often excessive in unhealthy lipid and sodium content which can impact blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart health. The effect may be minimal at the beginning, but over time the use of products excessive in salt, fats and calories can contribute greatly towards an unhealthy body.

More information on serving size amounts: Serving Size Amounts

Calories Per Serving

It would be wonderful if all fruits contained the same amount of calories per serving - as well as all grains, vegetables, proteins and dairy products. But alas, all differ. In fact, even same foods can hold different energy values. Examples include varieties of apples. A Gala apple will hold different energy values than a Jonathan or a Red Delicious or a Fuji. And of course, the size of the fruit also matters where calories are concerned.

Picture of food pyramid. In addition, even same-natural foods will differ in calories, based on where they are grown and harvested. A pineapple grown in the tropics will vary in energy content from a pineapple grown and harvested in the United States.

More information on this topic: Calories per Serving

Ratio of Fat-to-Calories Contained in Food

Simply put, this translates to 'the number of calories contained in the product which are derived from fat'. More information on this topic can be found in this Diet Bites health article: Ratio of fat-to-Calories Contained in Food

With this in mind, let's demonstrate how the nutrition facts label can impact your weight - as well as your overall health. Part 2 | Part 3

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