​​One of the most important aspects of dieting can be reading a nutrition label.  Many people do not read these labels and often are confused by these labels.  In order to count Macros and calories, you must understand this label or your numbers will be incorrect.   These labels are found on all food packaging and are required by the Food and Drug Administration.  The FDA has requirements in place to help the consumer understand what exactly is in the food they are purchasing.   What exactly are these requirements and how do you properly read the labels?  Let’s explore!

Nutrition labels are required to be on almost every food that is available for purchase.   The FDA has made these nutrition labels a requirement in order to help you, as the consumer, make more informed decisions when it comes to food choices.  The FDA requires that these labels display nutrients that the FDA has determined to “impact common health issues”.  Some of the common health issues referred to include Weight control, Diabetes, high blood pressure, and several others.  There are 13 specific parts to the nutrition label, which the FDA says all Nutrition labels must-have.

  1. Serving sizes
  2. Servings Per Package
  3. Calories
  4. Total fat
  5. Saturated Fat
  6. Trans Fat
  7. Cholesterol
  8. Sodium
  9. Total Carbohydrates
  10. Dietary Fiber
  11. Sugars
  12. Protein
  13. Vitamin D, Potassium, and minerals

These 13 specific parts required to be on the nutrition label each have their own significance and importance to anyone with dietary restrictions or diseases.   So now that we know what is on the nutrition label let’s take a look at how to decipher the label and how to use the Label to benefit our dieting needs. 

For our purposes of flexible dieting and counting Macros, there are 4 important parts to the nutrition label that you will want to pay attention to.   They are going to be serving size, Total Fat, Total carbohydrates and Protein.  If you are strictly counting calories then serving size and Calories will be the only two parts of this Label you will need to pay attention to.  When counting macros you will count protein, total carbohydrates, and total fat showing on the nutrition label.  Those are the only 3 categories you will need to track/Count for Macros purposes when reading the Label.  These 3 (protein, Total Carb, Total Fat) will also be in bold lettering and are easy to find on the label. It is important to understand that the number of grams showing for each Macronutrient is how many grams are in one serving of that food item.  This is where the 4th important part of the Nutrition label comes into play, serving size.  The serving size can be found at the very top of the nutrition label and is in bold lettering.  It will show a serving size in a descriptive unit such as a pouch, pastry, pieces, etc.  Following this description will be the weight of 1 serving size in grams.  The weight is the most accurate way to count a serving size.  When tracking macros you should ALWAYS weigh your food for serving sizes.  The weight will help you get the most accurate numbers when tracking your macros.  Once you determine how many serving sizes of the food you are going to eat you must remember to adjust the macronutrients accordingly. For example, if you measure out 2 serving sizes to eat you must multiply the total fat, Total Carbohydrates, and protein showing on the nutrition label by 2 to get the macronutrients for 2 serving sizes. 

Every packaged food has a nutrition label.  This nutrition label is there to help you as a consumer better understand your food choices and what exactly you put into your body.  Use the labels to help yourself! This isn’t rocket science and is actually quite easy to understand.  These labels are on the food to help you achieve your diet goals and make counting macros very easy.  Use these labels to your advantage and crush your diet goals! 

-Kaylin Hauge BS, CSCS

Disclaimer:  The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.