It took me years to actually learn how to read a nutrition label in a way that didn’t overwhelm or confuse me. As a child, I never paid attention to nutrition labels and really just focused on what food my parents gave me to eat and what my friends were eating at the lunch table. If it sounded or looked good, I ate it. I didn’t have much regard for the quality, nutritional value or anything else about the food.
Then in high school and college I began paying attention to the calories on the label and I decided on what to eat based on what had the lowest number of calories. I had no regard for the ingredients or anything else besides that number on the top left hand corner of a label. This was also the most brainwashing way to look at food for me. I was stuck on calories, stuck on counting numbers in everything and I was pretty much miserable while doing so. What fun is having dessert if you are worried about how many calories are in it?! Not to mention a 100 calorie pack did not fill me up. It left me hungry and cranky. I remember eating the cheese doodle ones with my lunch everyday in high school (HA!).
Now things are a bit different. Today, I pick up a product and the first thing I look at is the ingredient list. I am no longer just looking at the number of calories or the percentages on the back of the product. After peeking at the ingredients, I glance over the nutritional facts and info to get details about the nutritional breakdown.
I know it can be so confusing to actually know what to look for and what to stay away from in both food and beverages. There is a lot of conflicting advice given in the nutrition world on what is good or bad for you. And while I am by no means an RD or Nutritionist, I do have a solid idea of what I want my food to have in it and what I try to limit.
In this blog post I am walking you guys through how I read a nutrition label. This isn’t professional advice or the only way to approach things, it is just how I go about reading a nutritional label. Based on many messages, emails and questions about how I choose what to eat and if it is good for me, I am excited to be putting this all together for you. Use this as a guide, not me telling you what is good or bad or the only way to eat…that isn’t my style over here.
You will learn what I look for in products, what I try to avoid in products and what some of the numbers even mean. I’m not saying how I read a label is the best way or the only way, but it has worked for me over the past few years. I don’t find it overwhelming anymore trying to figure out if something is actually considered “healthy”.
To help make things easier for us, I am using Perfect Bar’s nutrition label as an example in this post, particularly the peanut butter flavor. It is one of my favorite products to snack on as you see on my Instagram. I have been eating them since before I even started blogging (they helped get me off so many heavily processed junk bars). Perfect Bar is also one of the most common products you guys inquire about and you genuinely want to know why I love eating them so much.
So let’s hop to it. Let me know if you guys have any questions as well, happy to address them as best as I can.
Please also note that I am not saying that how I read a label is right way and the only way. I want you to do what works for YOU. I’m not an expert, this is just how I, as a consumer, tackle the nutritional labels.