ARE YOU LOOKING IN THE RIGHT PLACE WHEN READING A NUTRITION LABEL?
THE FIRST PLACE YOU SHOULD LOOK
It’s not “calories.”
It’ not “carbohydrates.”
It’s not “sugar.”
It’s not “fat.”
And it’s not “sodium.”
The first place you should look at when evaluating the nutrition label is “serving size.” That’s because the serving size dictates the number of calories and nutrients you’ll take in depending on how much you eat. If you don’t consider the serving size, you may wind up eating significantly more or less of a nutrient or total calories than you hoped.
For example, let’s say you’re seeking out a low-fat snack. You stumble across a cracker advertised as “low-fat.” You quickly glance at the label and see that it provides 1.5 grams of fat per serving. “Low-fat” and cheese-flavored? Score! You immediately grab it and toss it into the cart.
However, unbeknownst to you, a serving of this “low-fat” cracker is a mere three crackers. And even worse, each cracker is roughly the size of a half-dollar. There’s no way you’re stopping after three crackers, or even three servings!
After one handful, you’ve already quadrupled the serving size. And a few later, you’re approaching 20 grams of fat. What started as a well-intended, low-fat snack, ended up being just as fatty having a few slices of bacon!
The same holds true when you’re concerned about carbohydrates, sugar, or sodium, too. An unrealistic serving size may leave you having consumed double, or triple the amount you planned to.
Yes, the above example may be extreme, but it’s more common than you think.
As obesity rates continue to rise, manufacturers have resorted to more misleading measures to market and sell their products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that a food must provide three grams or less per serving to be able to be advertised as “low-fat.”
But remember, fat is flavor. And in some food items, you can only get rid of so much before taste, texture, and consistency are extremely compromised. To help knock down the total fat per serving, many manufacturers will set unrealistic serving sizes, such as the three-cracker snack mentioned above, making a protein or energy bar two servings, or a small snack bag contain two or three servings.
Talk about misleading.
FORTUNATELY, TIMES ARE CHANGING!
By 2018, all nutrition labels will have undergone the mandatory changes mandated by the FDA. These changes include:
- Bigger, bolder font
- Updated serving sizes
- Inclusion of “added sugars”
You can read more about these changes in my recent article, “4 Changes To The Nutrition Label You Need To Know!”
YOUR CHOICE WASN’T WRONG
I know you have a good reason for gravitating to that specific spot on the nutrition label first. If you’re concerned with eating too much fat or carbohydrates at a particular meal, then it makes sense to “know the number” of each food option presented so you can choose accordingly. But don’t lose sight of the fact that portion size matters, and in this case, it should catch your eyes before any other number to make sure you take in the appropriate amount to meet your goal.
If you want to avoid misleading labeling and nutrition fact nonsense, focus most of your attention on foods that don’t contain a nutrition label, e.g., wholesome, natural, unprocessed foods such as fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables!