The nutrition information table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make informed nutrition decisions. If you can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, then you are better able to choose products that fit into a healthy diet.
WARNING – If you are like me and totally long sighted make sure you have your reading glasses with you whenever shopping for food. It is extremely annoying to come home with a product containing ten tons of sugar that no one in their right mind will touch.
Instead of treating this table as something to feared and ignored until forever let’s explore how you can get the most out of this set of figures.
Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Information table.
The most important part of the Nutrition Information table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So it can be tricky unless you’re in the know like us of course!
Always use the per 100 gm if you want to compare several items, that way you are comparing apples with apples and not with something completely different.
Let’s the example pictured above – plain, unsalted walnuts.
As you can see, right under the Nutrition Information header is the serving size. That is a 30g. This means that all the numbers in the first column are based on this amount.
FUN EXPERIMENT: 30g is about ¼ cup. Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is.
The % Daily Intake per Serving is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% of each nutrient every day. This is added up based on everything you eat and drink throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the. It will state as it does on these walnuts underneath the panel.
These figures are a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your Daily Intake per Serving figures up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.
NOTE: Not every nutrient has a Daily Intake per Serving figure next to it. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” figure for that nutrient. We do have it included for sugar in Australia so we are a step ahead of some countries.
Calories are straightforward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 208 calories.
Fat is bolded for a reason. That 20.8 g of fat 30% DIpS is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 20.8 g of total fat includes 1.3 g saturated fat, less than .1 g trans fat, 14.9 g of polyunsaturated fat and 3.6 g of monounsaturated fat.
Sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you Especially if your doctor has asked you to, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.
Carbohydrate, is total carbohydrates. It includes the items underneath it like sugar. Here, 30 g of walnuts contain .9 g of carbohydrates; of which .8 g is sugar.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup 30 g of walnuts contains 4.3 g of protein.
The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. This panel will continue to change as companies are made more accountable for the nutrition in their products
Here is a link to a handy labelling pdf which would be good to have on your fridge.
Do you have questions about it? If so, leave me a comment below.
Tip: Try with pecans instead. Go Easy though those dates are high in Sugar!