Nutrition labels - what to know

Being conscious of what food your eating is a healthy habit, but it's not made easy by the Food marketing industry which can confuse us all. 'Low in fat' 'No sugar' are just some examples of what these products claim, but do we really know what were looking for?.


Every product includes a nutritional content label as shown. The label breaks down macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) and the micro nutrient (vitamins and minerals) content.

Food products must show all ingredients, serving size, calories, calories from fat and the percentage of daily value. As a general rule 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is low, where as 20% DV or more per serving is high (FDA)

The ingredients within the product are in value order. Certain products can have misleading marketing claims so do be aware of how much the winning ingredient has within the product. 

Lets get into the science. 

Firstly, fats. There are three different types; total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. Not all fat is bad, therefore we are checking out the saturated and trans fat, these are bad!. Saturated fat, if not used will store in the body, as isn't as efficient in being used for the body's energy systems. Trans fat is highly refined, meaning it is man-made - avoid!

What are the good fats I hear you ask. Well, we have the omega family, two actually omega 3 and 6. Omega 3 derives from fish oils (DHA and EPA) and nuts and seeds (ALA). All of which are beneficial in fighting diseases and illnesses such as asthma and depression. Omega 6 is found in corn oil, soybean oil, safflower and sunflower oil, as well as from animal fat. Some benefits include; growth and elements of the nervous system. Both hold a superior hierarchy in nutrition, 

Our body’s primary fuel source comes from carbohydrates that your body breaks down into glucose. Throughout the day your body carefully manages blood glucose levels so that your brain, muscles and organs have enough fuel, so it is important to intake the correct type and amount. The nutrition labels will show the total carbohydrates from the product meaning how much is starch, fibre and sugar. The sugar content will define the product as a simple or complex carbohydrate. Foods high in sugar are simple carbohydrates . On the other hand we have complex carbohydrates have slow releasing energy, containing a lower amount of sugar, this is our friend!. Foods rich in starch and low in sugar are complex carbohydrates such as; rice, pasta and brown bread. Perfect for those preparing for an endurance event or workout. To gain the most out of complex carbohydrates it is beneficial to eat these 60-90 minutes before exercise. Simple sugars release into the bloodstream quicker so ideally consumed 30 minutes before exercise. Simple sugars consumed at this timeframe will enable a sugar peak in the bloodstream to aid performance in the workout.

Sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt. The words salt and sodium are not exactly the same, yet these words are often used interchangeably. Ninety percent of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt. The Recommended daily intake for sodium is 2.3 g, or 2,300 mg. That is equal to about 1 tsp. of salt a day. Additives and preservatives help foods to sustain shelf life. In short, avoid anything that is a preservative and has the word sorbate/sorbic, benzoate, sulphite, sulphate, nitrite, nitrate, propionic/propionate and check your ingredients, not only for the content but the amount too.

Protein is the last of the macro nutrients, providing tissue repair and growth, it holds vital purpose in day-to-day nutrition. Proteins contain amino acids. There are 20 amino acids used to build proteins. Proteins that do not have all 20 amino acids are incomplete proteins, those that do are known as complete proteins.  Choosing complete protein sources will make sure you are getting all the amino acids that your body needs, such as meat, fish and plant-based foods. Each gram of protein has 4 calories. 

Energy and calories

Calorie: Calorie is a unit of measurement for energy.  For the purpose of measuring the amount of energy in food, nutritionists most commonly use kilocalories (equal to 1,000 calories).
It is important to assess the calorie content of foods, however try not to fall into the trap of prioritising calorie counting. The ingredients and make up of the food is most important. Ask yourself what is contributing to the amount of calories? Products can claim 'reduced calories', or 'Low fat' and have a high amount of hidden fat or sugar, so do check these out. The calorie content will show for a certain serving size, so do check the portion amount for the overall product size. The percentage of daily value is based on 2,000 calories a day. Understand your calorie need to meet your lifestyle requirements. 

It's common sense that every one of us are different, so not one rule fits all. Take time to work out what foods best fit you. Assess your energy levels, concentration levels, digestion and immune system. All of which are important factors to check in your lifestyle. We can all be 100%, it's just knowing how. 

I now offer DNAFit analysis packages. I, along with many clients have used this genetic method to find the true fitness and nutrition needs of the human body. The method removes the guesswork. Get in contact to find out more.


  • Check the amount of ingredients - less is better

  • ingredient lists in value order

  • assess the sugar and fibre (carbohydrates) - is it beneficial?

  • good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are more beneficial

  • check the content for correct serving size - portion control

  • avoid empty calories - foods need to give back goodness

  • avoid anything that is a preservative