The information is priceless. While shopping at Costco the other day I saw just how sneaky food labels can be.
The first thing you have to look at before you check anything else is The Serving Size. (1 oz, 1/2 cup, etc). The nutrition information on the label is ALWAYS based on the serving size, not necessarily the entire package.
Here is a great example. I picked up this box of Mango Fruit cups thinking it would be a great snack to have in my pantry. I quickly looked at the label and saw 100 calories. PERFECT.
Thinking twice I looked more carefully at the label. Do you know what a serving size is for these fruit cups??? 1/2 cup!! Who eats 1/2 a fruit cup????
There are really 200 calories in each cup. I put the Mango Fruit Cups back on the shelf.
Here are a few quick tips to help you navigate the label.
Tip: when looking at the %DV (Daily Value, a confusing piece of information) if a nutrient’s Daily Value is 5% or less that means it is LOW in that nutrient. For example if next to the fat grams it says 5% DV, that means it is a low fat product. You don't have to worry about memorizing what number of fat grams actually means low fat.
If the %DV is 20% or more, it means that the nutrient it's next to is HIGH, so if you see 25% DV next to grams of fiber you know you have a high fiber food product (that is good) but if 25% DV is next to sodium (not so good).
Tip: Everyone is interested in SUGAR. What does the gram amount of sugar mean to you? Do you know that a teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams? But do you also know that the sugar content on a nutrition fact panel (the label) includes NATURALLY occurring sugar that is found in milk and fruit (in addition to added sugar). So, if you have a fruit yogurt and you are seeing 21 g sugar ( about 5 tsp in a tiny yogurt container) understand that because the yogurt has naturally occurring sugar, from milk and fruit, not all of that 21 grams is added sugar.
So now what? Look at the list of ingredients. They are listed in order of predominance by weight. If sugar is listed in the first few ingredients then you know that product has a lot of added sugar.