Nutrition labels and ingredient lists tell you a lot about the food you buy. But they can’t tell you everything about how those nutrients might affect your body. Use this guide from the experts at Blue Apron to help interpret labels and make the healthiest choices for your diet.
- Start with the list of ingredients. Look for fewer processed foods and more fresh vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains.
- Check out the nutrition label. It lays out the quantities of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and other nutrients. But those can be misleading. For example, there are a few factors to consider to fully understand carbohydrates:
- Total Carbohydrates represent the total amount of carbs in a serving. That includes dietary fiber and total sugars. Dietary fibers can help digestion, keep blood sugar levels even and lower cholesterol. But different kinds of fiber help your body in different ways.
- Carbohydrates include sugar. You might notice nutrition labels list total sugars as well as added sugars. What’s the difference? Total sugars include naturally occurring sugars from ingredients such as dairy, fruits, and vegetables plus added sugars. Added sugars are refined sugars such as white sugar, honey and maple syrup. The better option? Naturally occurring sugars.
- Ever notice “net carbs” on the label? Since dietary fibers can’t be digested, net carbs are calculated by subtracting the dietary fiber from the total carbohydrates. This number can give you a better idea of how many, and what kinds of carbohydrates you’re actually consuming.
- Review serving size. This measurement is usually provided in common household measures such as cups, a fraction of a package or number of pieces. The nutrition information is based on the serving size. But…
- A serving size is not necessarily how much you should eat. It simply represents how much someone usually eats at one time. You might want to eat more or less depending on your nutritional needs.
Understanding how to read a nutrition label can help you make informed decisions about what you eat. It does not have to be complicated. When in doubt, focus on foods with fresh produce, and avoid processed foods with long ingredient lists full of words you cannot pronounce.