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Reading A Nutrition Label - Avoid The Traps

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A package label is not always what it says it is supposed to be; sometimes, they are nothing but a marketing ploy meant to get you to buy the item. What you have to do is examine the small print on the nutrition label to get the real facts. People examine food nutrition labels for a variety of reasons, and learning what to look for and how to use this information could save you a lot of hard-earned money (and calories).

Get Informed

In the next few paragraphs, you will find out how to read nutrition labels and what to do with the information on them. You will also learn that just because a package says it is "fat free" does not necessarily mean that it is honestly fat free and just because a package says, "100 calories" does not mean it is still good for you. The information used below came from a box of "100 calorie Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cakes" made by Hostess.

When reading a nutrition label, keep in mind they come based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Depending on whether you consume more or less than 2,000 calories per day, you can still use the DVpercentage as a frame of reference. The DV will help you determine whether a food is high or low in a certain nutrient. Some nutrients like trans fat, sugars and protein, do not have DVs, which will be discussed later.

Serving Size

The serving size is the first place to start when looking at the nutrition label. This tells you what the serving size is and how many servings are in the package. The serving size comes listed in units like cups or pieces and followed by the number of grams; it look like this: Serving Size 3 Cakes (32g).

Pay particular attention to the servings per container and know that if you eat the whole container, the calories and all other nutrients will double if not more (servings per container 6).


Calories are what your body needs for energy. In the example above, the amount of calories are 100 with the calories from fat being 25 for one serving. If you eat the whole package, these numbers would go up considerably causing your calorie intake to become 600 and your calories from fat 150.

Things to Watch Out for

Trans fats, sugars and protein show a zero percentage for Daily Value because according to the FDA, there is not enough information to establish a daily value percentage. Reports show a link between trans fat, saturated fats with raising blood LDL cholesterol levels, which increase the risk of heart disease.

One very important thing to consider is the fact that glycerin, considered the backbone of the triglyceride molecule, most of the time do not come on a nutrition label. The following is a quote from the FDA's office of food labeling, ""FDA nutrition labeling regulations require that when glycerin is used as a food ingredient, it must be included in the grams of total carbohydrate per serving declaration. Also, when the label of a food containing glycerin has a statement regarding sugars, the glycerin content per serving must also be declared as sugar alcohol". For the food/supplement industry to not put glycerin on their nutrition labels is considered deceptive and dishonest, to say the least.

A nutrition label is suppose to provide facts that will help you to not only limit the nutrients you need to cut back on but also those you need to consume in greater amounts. Understanding the nutrition label is a good first step in maintaining or regaining good health. In addition, remember that all nutrition labels come based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

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