How to Read & Understand Food Labels

Going to the grocery store can either be a breeze or a difficult process. Not everyone understands reading food labels. So don't feel alone. 


  • Ingredients on the food labels are listed in order starting with what the product contains most of the ingredients on the label, the better. If you don't recognize the ingredients or can't pronounce it check it out

  • Look for foods with zero trans fats and avoid those with ingredients as partially or fully oils.These contain large amounts of trans fat and other modified fat substances.

  • Look for minimum sodium content. Unless you are shopping in the freezer section and havean extremely busy schedule these items will have content in sodium. You will most likely retain that water. In that case, you will watch your water intake for that day you are eatingfoods like that.

  • Try to go for whole grains. If you don't see the word “whole” in front of the name grain, it's not grain!

 4 Categories You Should Look At

  1. Serving Size: take note of the servings per container Food calories: This will tell you how many calories are in a serving size Values: You are going to see this in total fat, cholesterol, sodium, dietary fiber protein.

  2. Total Fat: measure in grams. Saturated fats and trans fats are what we what to consume less of because of its association with increased cardiovascular disease. Again, consuming these in moderation.

  3. Sodium: like sugar, sodium is naturally found in a lot of foods. It's recommended to keep our levels around 2,300mg per day. If you eat more meal prepped foods/frozen - it will be higher in moderation is fine. Dietary Fiber Aiding in digestion and bowel function.

  4. Ingredient List -  Listed according to weight first.

Different names for sugar, fats & sodium

Sugar can pop up in ingredient lists in different words! Look for these words to avoid on nutrition labels:

  •  maple sugar, sorghum, turbinado sugar, maltodextrins, isomalt, invert sugar, high fructose corn Syrup, galactose, glucose, lactose, dextrose, levulose, maltose, sucrose, mannitol, xyitol, corn sweetener, beet sugar, corn sugar

These are different ways to say there is added high calorie with low nutrient sugar inside. 

  • Putting sugar into perspective! Try to avoid refined sugars and added sugars and read the amount of sugar content each product contains. If something contains 20grams of sugar that is equivalent to 5 teaspoons of sugar.

Natural and Refined Sugar

Let’s make it clear that not all sugars are the same. Just like all carbs are not the same. Refined sugar is like white sugar/flour been processed and striped of nutrients, fiber water. This increasesthe speed at which it enters your bloodstream. They can be highly addictive. When it comes to fruitsand veggies, they come with the right proportion of water and fiber which help facilitate the natural rate of digestion and absorption.

Trans Fat

can be listed as partially hydrogenated oil and hydrogenated oil. These are known for elevating your LDL (low -density lipoprotein) cholesterol and lowering your HDL(high- density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

Your LDL cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow and your HDL cholesterol picks up the excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

 Other names for ingredients high in saturated fat:

  •  animal fat/oil, beef fat, butter, chocolate, milk solids, palm oil, cream, dripping, lard, suet, ghee,


Sodium can be listed as disodium, salt, sodium benzoate, monosodium glutamate. Having too much sodium can increase your blood pressure, which can increase risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

What to do if you intake too much sodium

  • Drinking tons of water will help flush sodium from your kidneys.

  • Eating foods like banana, potatoes, white beans and leafy greens that contain potassium which helps counteract sodium

Other names for high salt ingredients:

  •  Baking powder, celery salt, garlic salt, stock cubes, onion salt, sea salt, meat/yeast extract, sodium biocarbonate

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