Happy National Read Your Nutrition Labels Day! (yep, seriously)

How to read nutrition labels via InspiredRD.com

This morning, before the sun came up, I headed out to the other side of town to pay a visit to our local CBS morning news.  Because it’s National Read Your Nutrition Labels Day (yes, it’s a real thing), we talked about debunking some of the claims on the front of food packages.

Low Sugar:
Before reaching for that low sugar item, take a peek at the ingredient list.  Are they replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols?  There are a host of reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners, but have you heard of sugar alcohols?  Because they are only partially digested by our bodies, they have a lower caloric impact. But it comes with a price for many of us, and that price is gastric distress.  Bloating, upset stomach, running to the bathroom…all good reasons to watch out for those sugar alcohols.  Look for ingredients that end with “-ol” like maltitol, xylitol, erythritol.  Instead, choose a product with ingredients you can see and pronounce, like the new KIND Nuts & Spices line.  Only 4-5 grams of sugar and no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.

0g Trans Fats:
Did you know that food companies can claim 0g trans fats on the front of their product if it contains less than 0.5 grams trans fats per serving?  That means you could still be getting up to 0.4 grams every time you eat or drink the product.  There is no safe amount of trans fats to consume, and if you’re using something like a coffee creamer each day, the trans fats can add up!  Turn the product around and look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”.  If you see those words, put it back on the shelf.  Why are trans fats so bad?  They raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, promote inflammation, and put you at a higher risk of heart disease.

If you see the word “light” on a product, you might think it’s the smarter choice.  But when they take something (usually fat) out, they have to put something else in (usually sugar) to make it taste good.  On the news this morning, I compared two cans of soup.  The “light” version had a few less calories, but 5 times the amount of sugar and less than half the protein of the original.  We also tend to overindulge on light products because we think they’re better for us.  Stick with a sensible portion of the real thing.

Multigrain only means one thing: the product is made with more than one grain.  Turn that box around and look at the ingredient list.  You want the first ingredient to be “whole wheat” or “whole” whatever the grain is.  If the first ingredient is “enriched”, that means it’s a processed grain.  Look for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain instead of multigrain.


Do you have any questions about nutrition labels?  Leave a comment below!


  • ryan guard April 11, 2013 at 9:11 am

    You did great!
    Can you just come over to our house with a trash bag and head to our kitchen? Maybe two trash bags.