The Secrets in Your Nutrition Label...

7 min read

2,300 words

I couldn’t believe it. The all natural cereal from the health section had more added sugar and less vitamins than the fruit loops!

Have you ever been looking at an item and wonder if it is “healthy”? Is it a good source of protein, fats, carbs or how it can impact your health?

Today I want to help you look at food labels the way that I do so that you can determine if it is healthy for you and if it is worth the added costs.

Soapbox moment: Something that ruffles my feathers about shopping in the United States is that foods that are considered “healthy” for you tend to be higher in cost. No added sugar sauces and dressings cost more than their added sugar counterparts. Highly processed breads and cereals are priced higher than their whole food brothers. Heck apples cost more than Oreos!

As my wife says, “it is what it is''. So let's just deal with it and move on.

While the front packaging of a food item can be very misleading with their claims, the food labels on the back of the product are usually tightly regulated. Let’s take a look at each part of the food label to get a greater understanding of what we are actually getting, how it is being used in our bodies and where the food companies are trying to trick you!

For our examples today we are looking at Jif Creamy Peanut Butter and Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter. For anyone unfamiliar with these products, Jif is your classic peanut butter, made for mass distribution and consumption. Justin’s Almond butter is a higher end product that touts using “the best products they can get their hands on” and flying the Non GMO, Gluten Free, Orangutan Friendly and Kosher certifications.

I only chose these products for two reasons.

1) Nut butters usually contain carbs, fats, and proteins.

2) The nutritional uses for these two food products are very similar.

So let’s start from the top and work our way down.

Servings and Calories-

This section is pretty straightforward. The servings per container is how many portions you will get if you follow the recommended serving size below. Calories are a measurement of energy. When it comes to our health and fitness, our bodies need calories for everything we do, all the way from growing your hair to running the stairs. Too many calories, we will store them. Too few calories, we will sacrifice energy and metabolic functions.

Where lots of companies get tricky is how they will change the serving size to fit within a specific calorie window.

Nut butters are a perfect highlight of this. When most people are using a nut butter for a snack, sandwich or toast are using much more than 2 TBSP. Another great example is chips or packaged cookies. Usually they will show you about 150 calories per serving… but who is eating just 1 oz of chips or 2 cookies? Most companies with calorie dense foods will intentionally change their serving size to keep the calories under 250, because most people will start to second guess a 300 calorie cookie investment.

% Daily Value-

Before going down the list let’s chat about the “% Daily Value” category. According to “General Nutrition Advice” this is the percentage of the daily intake of the nutrient for someone who has a 2,000 calorie diet. If you are not “General” or do not have a 2,000 calorie daily diet, be cautious about letting these numbers guide your decisions. For example- For Jif, if you fit the above description 4 servings (8 tablespoons) would give you a full day's worth of fat. If you track your macros or servings, the grams of nutrients will guide you better to proper nutrition.

Fats and Sodium-

Let me give a shout out to fat and sodium real quick! Healthy dietary fat provides our bodies with huge benefits. They are super energy dense, help to balance hormones, form cell membranes, brains and nervous systems, and it transports vitamins A,D,E and K around our body. Sodium is an essential mineral that