Get Your Label On, Part 1

This is Teddy.  I am quite a fan of his YouTube videos.  I find him delightful and amusing.
This is Teddy. I am quite a fan of his YouTube videos. I find him delightful and amusing.

This is Teddy Bear the Porcupine, and I find the videos of him YouTube to be delightful.  I just find him charming it is completely unrelated to this blog post.  However animals will be a common theme here, because I find animals to be delightful and cute.

Now onto the topic: Food Labels.  They are all the talk.  I’m not talking about the little blips of “Low Sodium”, “Sugar Free”, that can be cause manufacturers to mark up the price, and/or confuse consumers.  I’m talking about the actual Nutrition Facts the label on the back with numbers.

Do you know how to read it? Do you know how much might be too much FOR YOU? Do you know how to get the most nutrients for calories or energy consumed?

Welcome to label reading 101.

First let’s cover some simple math, that unfortunately many people do not know- I know this because I have truly seen these people.

1 tbsp = 1/2 oz

1/4 cup = 2 oz

1/2 cup = 4 oz

1 cup = 8 oz

There is our math lesson.  This is important because the serving size many times is in oz.  Instead of saying “1/2 cup”.  Now you can associate 1/2 cup with 4 oz.

Now onto the label itself.  The first thing you always want to find is the serving size in this case it says one cup.  So we are good there.  The serving size is important because everything from the calories down to the vitamins in minerals is based on that one cup serving.  You change the serving you change the amount below


Servings per container literally tells you how many of the serving sizes listed above it are in the container.  In terms of calories I do not do a lot of kcal counting with my patients.  This is something that is very individualized which is important because the daily values on the far right are percentages of nutrients based on a 2000 calorie diet- not everyone needs 2000 calories.  This is something that can be addressed in a later post.
In terms of fat- the average individual needs only certain amount of fat (about 15-20%) based on their total calorie needs.  This percentage can be converted to grams- by someone like yours truly a Dietitian.  In terms of fat- the ones you really want to steer clear from are the saturated and trans fats, these fats should be consumed in as small amounts as possible.  Excessive amounts are not friendly to your body, your waistline or your heart.  Now if you were to see the mono- or polyunsaturated fats those make your heart happy.  You

don’t need them in excess, a little bit goes a long way for maximum benefits.  

In terms of Cholesterol- I usually have people pay more attention to the fats listed above but if heart disease or high cholesterol is truly an issue I recommend limiting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg or less per day.  Again these recommendations are individualized.  Next up is Sodium, the USDA recommends 1500 mg of Sodium per day.  I watch my sodium intake, and I don’t meet this mark many days.   A lot of times when people just begin paying attention to this and cooking at home more this number in terms of intake decreases.


Potassium is up there with sodium- a healthy/normal person needs potassium, but definitely not in excess.  For individuals with kidney problems excessive amounts should be avoided.

Total Carbohydrate is something else that should be individualized, but everyone needs carbs- they give us energy when they break down into glucose.  So don’t be getting all cray cray and trying one of those low/no carb diets.  If you pay attention to the carbs and limit the grams of sugar you’re sitting just fine.

Dietary fiber is muy importante.  About 35 g is what is recommended.  On average Americans get about 12-15 g.  Not cool my friends.

What are parts of the food label, or labeling in general you find confusing?  What things do you look for that you find helpful or important?

I’ll be continuing this in part deux. 🙂

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