Food Labeling: What You Need To Know

food labelingDeciphering food labels is often akin to studying the runes of some ancient tribe. Or listening to the the Red Queen “words mean exactly what I say they mean” from Alice in Wonderland.

So here’s a quick guide to the words and phrases so often misunderstood (often because the manufacturer wants to mislead).

Commonly Abused Words or Phrases


What can be healthier than ‘natural’? Well unfortunately not.

A length of sugar cane is natural. So is pig fat. Or oil for that matter.

But eating them couldn’t be said to be healthy.

Indeed many natural foods are the most unhealthy, because they have high fat, , salt or sugar.


Again ‘oganic’ isn’t healthy just because it is organic.

Many organic products contain sugar which, whilst they may not contain pesticides and other nasties that those who eat organic foods are looking to avoid, are still unhealthy.

Low Fat Or Fat Free

Again, just because something has no fat, it doesn;t mean that they don;t contain sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients.

Indeed fat free foods often contain more of these to add back flavor lost when the fat is removed.

So is there anything you can do to avoid being conned?

Food Labeling

Careful study of the food label should give you all the info you need to combat thesese tricks.

There’s a lot you can glean from these but what you should concentrate on is the presence or otherwise of three things: nutrients (see below), sugar, (types of) fats and salt. And the calorie count.

What’s On A Label

Serving size

This can be used to calculate the total fat/sugar/salt content of the food.

Percentage of daily value (%DV)

Percentage of daily value gives you of the amount of each nutrient contained in one serving compared with the daily intake value (based on a diet of 2,000 calories) of that nutrient as recommended by the FDA.

This 2000 is just a guide: it is different for different genders, age and height.

A content lower than 5%DV of a single nutrient means that the food item has a low content of that nutrient.

A food is considered to be rich in a particular nutrient if the %DV of that nutrient is higher than 20%.


The Following nutrients are vital for your health, the ones that you should consume more:

  • Vitamins A
  • Vitamen B
  • Vitamins C
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Calcium

Foods that contain a high %DV of these nutrients will help you achieve a healthy lifestyle. Nutrients such as cholesterol, fats (but see below) and sodium should be eaten in moderation.


Sugar is increasingly being seen as the main culprit for the recent rise in obesity.

Unused sugar is converted by the body into fat and stored on the abdomen and thighs.

Remember that sugar can also be called fructose, sucrose or glucose: they should all be consumed in moderation


This is where it gets a bit more complicated.

In general we overeat fats which are calorie dense and can cause heart disease.

However, some fats –  unsaturated and lesser saturated fats for example – are good for you. Indeed some, such as Omega 3, should be sought out.

However, trans fats which are used in fast food and other fried foods should be avoided.


The western diet contains far too much salt, causing problems such as high blood pressure.

Avoid eating more than the DV% – look out for salt in processed or ready made meals for example.


As you can see, studying a label can give you a very different view on the healthiness, or otherwise, of food.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few tips for you to avoid being mislead into buying something believing, falsely, that it was healthy.