Food Label 101: Tips To Help You Understand Food Labels

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(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(CBS Radio) — While shopping at the grocery store, have you ever glimpsed at the nutrition label and wondered what those numbers really mean?

Really, it’s not an accident that food labels are hard to understand, furthermore, unless you have a degree in nutrition, chances are the label on the back of the box is a bit confusing. Moreover, there is some deceiving information found on food labels that you should be aware of.

Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

You should not purchase any food products that contain trans fat, unless you don’t mind having elevated bad cholesterol and lowered good cholesterol. The amount of trans fat in any given food product can be deceiving because as long as the food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, the label can claim that the product has no trans fats. Here’s a helpful tip: any food product that is made with hydrogenated oil or shortening contains trans fats. To promote health and wellness, avoid buying these food products.


When you eat food containing fiber, it slows the rate at which your body absorbs sugar. This helps you maintain normal sugar levels in your blood. Foods that are rich in fiber include, but are not limited to whole grain breads, cereals, brown rice, beans, and fruits and vegetables. Food products that contain three or more grams of fiber per serving are worth purchasing.

Serving Size

Paying careful attention to the serving size will help you determine the actual amount of calories, fat, fiber, etc. you are consuming. In an effort to make their products appear “healthier” some companies make the portions of their food products smaller. Being mindful of this can help you determine how “healthy” the product really is.


Eating foods that are high in sodium can be dangerous to your health, as it causes hypertension (elevated blood pressure,) in addition to making you more susceptible to developing hearth disease. On the other hand, consuming inadequate amounts of sodium can lead to your body being unable to maintain normal fluid levels. Therefore, the American Heart Association has set a sodium guideline of consuming no more than 2,000 milligrams per day.


Most people who check the food label before purchasing a product zoom in on the amount of calories the food contains. However, not all high-calorie foods are bad. In fact, a plethora of high calorie foods offer many nutritional benefits. When looking at calories, it’s best to examine the whole food label to decide if the extra calories outweigh consuming healthy foods.


While many food products contain healthy sugars, most of the sugar found in food products are simply unhealthy for your body. What you want to try to avoid are the products which contain added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, and brown rice syrup.

Vitamins and Minerals

The percentage next to each vitamin or mineral displays the daily nutritional amount. Foods between 10 to 20 percent of your daily value are considered adequate nutritional sources.

-QC Writer, CBS Radio

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