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Reading Nutrition Labels


When reading a nutrition label there are 5 areas we want to look at. Let's go from top to bottom. This nutrition label example is for chicken breast. At the very top, we have the serving size. The serving size is made up of protein, total fat, and total carbohydrate. These 3 macronutrients when converted to kCal will equal "total calories." Most meat is pretty standard at 113g or 4oz. If you have a fattier piece of meat like pork or a ribeye, you may see a serving size of 2.5oz. This is because nutrition labels are based off of a 2,000 calorie diet. Just below the serving size is calories. It may also depict right next to it how many calories are coming from fat. This is important because, as we know, 1g of fat is 9 calories while protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Since the fat macro is the most calorically-dense macro, we see it first on the list and it is also the one we should pay the most attention to. This is the macro that typically is the most challenging to manage.

Next we see total carbohydrate. It is beneficial to understand how many of the carbohydrates come from fiber, sugars, and added sugars. We want fiber in our diet, but it isn't that crucial unless we are tracking "net carbs." What is probably the most important under the carbohydrate umbrella is added sugars. We should look for products with little to no added sugar. This is processed cane sugar. "Sugars" are naturally existing sugar. (For example, an apple will have sugar in it but this a naturally-existing sugar which makes the hormonal effect on the body different.)

Lastly, but arguably the most important, is protein. Every meal we eat, we should be striving for a minimum of 25-30g of protein per meal. The last thing we need to keep in mind is that there can be 20-30% margin error on nutrition labels. The FDA actually allows this. Some companies who may benefit from being 20% incorrect will deliberately do this *cough cough Coke cough.* So the next time you go food shopping, make sure you check the nutrition labels on the items you normally purchase, before just throwing them in your cart. You never know what you might learn!

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