Reading (and Understanding!) Nutrition Labels

Knowing what you put in your body is half the battle of weight loss.  Things that say “low fat” or “sugar free” might sound good, but sometimes the lack of one element is overcompensated in another.  Take the time to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists to figure out what you are really eating and how beneficial the food or beverage is.

Here is an example label of macaroni and cheese from the FDA website to help figure it all out.

nutrition label fda


  1. Start with the serving size.  Unfortunately, most products are not in a single serving package.  For instance, look at a bottle of soda or water.  While it may make sense that you will drink the entire bottle as one serving, they usually have at least 2 servings per standard bottle.  The nutrition labels are developed for the calorie content and nutrition for one serving size, so if you consume the whole bottle, be sure to adjust your numbers accordingly.
  2. Calories are how we measure food energy.  Be sure to note how many calories are from fat as well.  In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.
  3. Total Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium are the three big nutrients the FDA focus on as they are sources for many chronic diseases including heart disease and high blood pressure. These nutritional elements are near the top of the label because health experts and the FDA have determined these facts as critical.
  4. These nutritional elements are essential to good health and may reduce your risk of disease.  Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron are the big vitamins and minerals to have in your diet so your body can support you daily.
  5. The footnote shows nutritional elements of your calorie intake in actual mass and percentage BASED ON A 2000-CALORIE DIET.  The values are recommendations.  Use the information on the footnotes to compare to the nutrition values above to make sure you are not surpassing the recommended amount.
  6. The Percent of Daily Value is based on a 2000-calorie diet.  As part of a weight loss diet, you are generally going to eat less than 2000 calories a day, so pay extra attention to vitamin percentages to get all the nutrition you need without all the calories.  Your Medifast® consultant can help you determine how to best balance calories and vitamins.


Below the nutrition label are the ingredients in the product you are about to consume.  Ingredients listed first are the most prevalent ingredients in the product.  The lower the item is listed, the smaller amount of it is present (percentage-wise) in the product.  Food with “high fructose corn” as one of the first few ingredients should be eaten with some caution if you are trying to cut down on sugar.


Understanding the nutritional value of your food is part of adapting a healthy diet and lifestyle.  By using the information provided, you can easily make good food choices and be successful in your weight loss journey and overall health and well-being.


2014-07-22T13:18:11+00:00July 24th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized|