Image provided by FDA

Image provided by FDA

We constantly hear about how we are supposed to make healthier choices in order to achieve our fitness goals.  But, in order to make more informed and better nutrition choices, we must learn how to read and understand the Nutrition Facts (food labels) in the products we consume.


1.    Start with the Serving Size

This should always be your starting place - the actual serving size and the number of servings per container. Once you understand how many serving sizes are in the package, ask yourself how many servings am I consuming; that way you can properly assess how many calories and other nutrients you are actually having. For instance, if the serving size of a cup of yogurt us ½ cup and you have 1 cup, you know that you should multiply all the values in the Nutrition Facts by 2, because you are actually doubling the serving size.


2.    Check calories:

Calories are a basic measurement of energy and our bodies run on this energy. Ingesting more calories that you burn daily will result in weight gain. So, what’s low, moderate and high-calorie food? It depends on your daily intake and goals, but generally speaking, 40 calories per serving is considered low100 calories per serving is moderate, and 400 calories per serving is considered high.


3.    Look Out for These:

Saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol & sodium are the nutrients you need to limit and keep an eye on

Saturated Fats:

What are They?

- Solid at room temperature

- Come from animal fat (dairy, beef, butter, lamb, pork).

- Sometimes found in plant oil (peanut butter, coconut oil)

- Plant oil saturated fats don’t contain cholesterol, making them okay to enjoy once-in-a-while

How Much Per Day is Acceptable?

- 12g


Trans Fats:

What are They?

- Artificial fats created by industries

- Cheaper, reused and manufactured

- They raise your “bad” cholesterol and increase your chance of heart disease

How Much Per Day is Acceptable?

- A max of 2g, but try to eliminate completely



What is It?

- Important constitute of cell membranes

- Only present in animal products

- The body needs some cholesterol but too much can become a problem

How Much Per Day is Acceptable?  

- Less than 300mg



What is It?

- Very important to our bodies and water regulation

- Too much sodium causes us to bloat and retain liquid, which causes our heart and blood vessels to work harder

- Can lead to high blood pressure and could potentially lead to heart disease

How Much Per Day is Acceptable?

- Stay under 1,500mg


4.    Get Enough of These:  

Protein & dietary fiber are not produced on their own; therefore, you need to make sure you intake a good amount of these (number varies depending on your weight and goals)  


What is It?

- The building block of muscle

- Recommended to be taken in heavy doses if you are attempting to build muscle

- Chicken, eggs, Greek yogurt and many other products are high in protein

How Much Per Day?

- Intake should be 0.7g per lb of body; Example: a 120 lb woman should intake about 85g of protein per day 


Dietary Fiber:

What is It?

- Also known as roughage, it is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants

- Helps lower cholesterol

- Helps in your overall digestion process

How Much Per Day?

- Women need 25g per day and men need 38g per day


You Should Also Get Enough:

- Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron


5.    Daily Values:

Talk to your fitness specialist to find out what values are recommended for you based on your physical activity and health goals. As a reference, all nutrition facts featured on a label include a suggestion for what daily values should be for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet.


6.    Keep in Mind Sugar & Ingredients


Sugar is a little complicated because it is often not differentiated between natural (found in fruits & dairy) & added sugar. Avoiding added sugar is the best way to go, but it’s often not listed on the nutrition facts. So how do we determine them? Look at the ingredient list! Watch and avoid items listed as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltose, Dextrose, Fruit Concentrate, Sucrose, Honey etc. Try and keep your sugar intake to fewer than 30g per day.


The ingredients are always listed at the end of the product, and are REQUIRED to be listed in decreasing order of substance weight. That means the ingredient that has the most has to be written first.

Remember: look out for added sugars, or partially hydrogenated oils which are small amounts of Trans fats.           

Understanding and reading nutritional labels and can be an overwhelming process. Between the manufacturers marketing techniques and sometimes lack of regulations, it is becoming more difficult to make informed choices.  Hopefully this break up of a nutritional label can at least shed some light on what is being included in your food. There are also a lot of free resources that can help you track these numbers and help you better understand how this all fits into your healthy lifestyle. We recommend apps such as MyFitnessPal, or visiting the FDA website on nutritional info. You can also book an appointment with a certified health coach and personal trainer. They can help you determine personalized goals and approaches for your body type.