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How to understand food labels?

The Nutrition Facts label helps you make informed food choices. Whether you are trying to lose weight or trying to maintain it or even trying to eat healthy, understanding food labels is your first step. Food labels can guide you towards healthy choices; help you calculate your calorie intake and other nutrients’ intake.

Reading nutrition may be confusing and time consuming for you. Here are some tips that will make you more familiar with the information provided and help you clearly and quickly understand food labels. 




Nutrition Content Claims

1-      Serving size

The first thing to check on a food label is the serving size because the following values will be given in this specified serving. Usually the servings are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount (for example the number of grams).


1-      Total Calories and calories from fat

Total calories are a guide to help you calculate how many calories you will be ingesting by eating a certain serving of this food.  The nutrition label also provides the calories coming from fat which should be reduced in a healthy diet. Indeed, two products may contain similar calories but the amount coming from fat may be different.

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Causes of Binge eating

1-   Biological causes:


The brain is involved in controlling appetite, hunger and satiety. Improper signals sent by the brain can contribute to binge eating. Abnormal levels of brain chemicals (such as serotonin) that control mood and some compulsive behavior can also make some individuals more prone to binge eating.


2-   Social and cultural causes:


Social pressure (such as critics about the body or weight or pressure to lose weight) promotes emotional eating in binge eaters. This food disorder may be also promoted during childhood if parents used food for comfort or rewards. Children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable.


3-   Psychological causes

Negative feelings (such as depression, low self-esteem, and loneliness), unhealthy and extreme dieting and poor body image are associated with binge eating. Troubles with controlling impulsions and managing and expressing feelings may also trigger binge eating.

Calculating your energy intake throughout the day using the calorie section of a food label can help you manage your weight.

1-      Nutrients

Looking at the nutrients’ section help you make healthier choices by:

● Limiting nutrients such as saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium

●  Boosting intake of other healthy nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (except sodium) and fibers.

This section can help you compare products to each other and find the healthiest or the most suitable for you. For example if you are looking to increase your iron intake you can compare products to each other and find the food product that is the richest in iron.


The percentage daily values (% DV):

● Show the contribution of each nutrient to your total daily diet based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You may need more or less calories, but the % DV is still helpful as a reference. If the label states % daily value of vitamin A is 4% in one serving this means that eating one serving of the food product provide 4% of the daily needs of vitamin A. You still have to cover 96% during the rest of the day.

●  Help you determine if a food is high or low in a certain nutrient. It is important to pay attention to the number of servings that you will be eating: the %DV may seem low or moderate in one serving but may become high if you need to eat more than one serving.


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Label Claims

A food label may also include some claims such as health claims and/or nutrient content claims.


Nutrient content claims describe the content of a food, including the amount of nutrients, calories, cholesterol or fiber, but not in exact amounts. Some terms like free, high, and low in a certain nutrient or in calories are easy to understand; however others may be confusing.

  • ·        Reduced and light mean that the product as compared to another one contains lower levels of a certain nutrient or fewer calories. This doesn’t mean that it is free or low, it can still be high. You may also need to check if it is reduced in fat or calories or sodium…
  • Fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free; lower fat items may have as many calories as full-fat versions.
  • When a food is labeled Healthy, this usually refers to "healthy" levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.


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Health claims (which must be approved by the FDA) describe a relationship between a nutrient or food and a disease or health-related condition. Such claims don’t mean that the food or nutrient will treat or cure the disease or prevent it on its own but that, in the context of a healthy diet, the food product may help protect against it based on substantial scientific evidence. For example, “calcium and reduced risk of osteoporosis” that can be written on a food rich in calcium....