Why I Don’t Read Nutrition Facts Labels (with one exception)

With the recent announcement about nutrition facts labels possibly getting their first major facelift in 20 years, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my thoughts on nutrition labels in general. First of all, I almost never read them. I used to read them though. In fact, it used to be the only thing I looked at on the back of the package, but these days I find MUCH more value in reading the ingredient label instead.

Reading the ingredient label is the number one way to know what’s in your packaged food and how processed it is.

I have never been one to count calories, fat grams and the like, and one of the reasons for that is – and hopefully we can all agree – not all calories or fat grams are created equal! Please don’t let anyone try to tell you an avocado is just as “bad for you” as a donut just because they both have 21 grams of fat.

Same goes for calories – a pack of Skittles has about the same number of calories as 2 cups of organic grapes. Clearly those two are not even close to being equivalent when it comes to eating whole foods for good health. I would also say that considering grams of naturally occurring sugars vs. added sugars falls into the same category as well. And these are all the “facts” pointed out to us on the Nutrition Facts Label!

All Fat Grams Not Created Equal from 100 Days of #RealFood

5 Reasons I Don’t Read Nutrition Facts Labels:

  1. Prominently featured stats like calories, fat grams, and sugars are not all created equal (as demonstrated above).
  2. Tracking those calories, fat grams, protein, etc. most definitely takes the “fun” out of eating.
  3. I prefer to stop eating when I feel full (granted, not always an easy task) to know when I’ve had enough food. And if you do this in addition to eating a variety of whole foods I believe everything else will fall into place – no counting or label checking required.
  4. The vitamin section can be incredibly misleading. A loaf of bread made with factory enriched white flour can “appear” to have more vitamins than a loaf of bread made with whole wheat flour, and that’s because the vitamins featured are not even close to showing you the whole picture.
  5. The stats highlighted tell me absolutely NOTHING about how highly processed the packaged food is.

One Sweet Exception

Now with that said – there is one “sweet” exception to all of this. There is a pretty major change proposed to the one part of the nutrition label that I do look at on occasion (a change I have actually been wanting for some time). This change has to do with sugar. Sugar itself is not necessarily the devil, but the quantity in which it’s typically consumed is a problem when it comes to our health. And it’s easy to overlook because sugar is no longer just reserved for sweets but rather added to everything these days including bread, crackers, yogurt, salad dressings, cereals, beverages, and so on.

So on occasion, if I do see some form of added sugar spelled out on the ingredient label I like to know exactly how much it contains. For example, I wanted to purchase some smoked salmon the other day and was surprised to see brown sugar on the ingredient list. But when I looked at the grams of sugar per serving it was less than 1 gram, so I knew it contained very little sugar (and therefore I purchased it).

But the “Sugars” listing on the current Nutrition Facts Label does have one major flaw. If you were considering buying a product like flavored yogurt, which is made from milk obviously and therefore has naturally occurring sugar, there is no way to separate how many of the grams of sugar are from the milk versus the refined added sugar to give the yogurt it’s flavor. So that’s why I am super excited to see this proposed change that I would refer to on occasion…

Nutrition Facts Labels proposed changes from 100 Days of #RealFood
Proposed changes could be implemented in about two years.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on packaged food labels (and the proposed changes as well). Do any of you look at the Nutrition Facts labels? If so, what are you looking out for?

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131 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Read Nutrition Facts Labels (with one exception)”

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  1. Melissa McCluney

    Thank you for this fabulous article! I am a read-the-ingredient list gal, too. I quit eating sugar about 8 years ago and through the advice of a whole food friend, dropped the nutrition “facts” check for the often looong list of stuff-you-can’t-pronounce-but-They-expect-you-to-eat. I am SO glad the sugar amounts will finally show the differences!!

  2. I avoid processed food as much as possible but sometimes I do buy some packaged food items/ingredients. I don’t pay much attention to most of the nutrition elements on the labels except for sugars and sodium (we keep a low-sodium diet for medical reasons) and my favorite is the ingredient list.

  3. Dana Trumpower

    I always look at labels. First I see how long the ingredient list is. If it is long, I look into it a little further! Secondly, on snack foods, I make sure my children know what a serving size is. My daughter could have eaten an entire bag of trail mix, until I pointed out the whole bag was 11 servings and a day’s worth of calories! Kids do need to learn portion size. I like the added sugar component of the new label, but notice there is no RDA % for sugar! People need to know what a day’s worth of sugar should really be! And most things “lower” in sugar typically has fake sugars, which are no better for you. I hate that. I don’t want aspartame in my yogurt, but I also don’t want 29 grams of sugar!

  4. I found a label once on a tweenky like product produced in mexico it read: ingredients ; cake mix, well duh!

  5. #1 I check sodium – the American diet is so high in sodium that it is critical to know what they have done there, #2 I don’t worry too much about total fat; I do always check saturated fat – that is the real difference between the avocado and the doughnut, #3 I ignore trans fat since it is generally a big fat lie and always scan the ingredient list instead for this information. Hopefully the FDA will get off their rears soon and enforce taking the poisons of partially hydrogenated oils out of our food system.

    I am glad to see the added sugars category – it is additional good information. To Laura’s comment it would be better if they did add fruit puree than the added sugar component – sugar in place is not bad. The problem with added sugar is getting the blood sugar rush without the other goodness that comes from the fruits and vegetables to temper it (potassium, fiber, etc.). So, to that end I wish that they had also added Potassium – it gives food data for those managing hypertension.

  6. As a (Type 1) diabetic, I really need the total carbohydrates entry on the label. Although I agree with you in large part about the issues of processed versus naturally occurring, and the importance of the ingredients list, it is critical to me to know how many carbs I am consuming, so I know how much insulin to use.

  7. My big annoyance with labels….is they don’t list artificial sweeteners (unless this is part of the added sugars?). Yes they have the warning on the front usually in small writing and its lost in the ingredients, but there’s no grams in the nutrition section.

    Ive thrown away so much food thinking it was low in sugar, and after glancing quickly over the label not realizing it had a whack of artificial sweeteners. Id rather have no sugar. >.< But atleast most of my food is homemade now, which is harder to keep track of calories and portions….but so much healthier. :)

  8. It’s all tricky and much like a chemistry nightmare. Someone told me once….if it doesn’t occur in nature in that state, might not want to eat it.

  9. I too rarely read the nutrition label for the same reasons. I look first at ingredients and additives and I am sad to say that there is little packaged food out there without additives!! I am increasingly seeing more which is good, after watching Food, Inc. I am now looking into grass fed beef, pork and poultry from local farmers as well. I grow all of my veggies naturally too. I am glad to see this label change now if they would list the GMO’s and pesticides/herbicides. ….that will never happen!! Sadly too many people eat food like products instead of real, chemical free food, humanely raised food!!

  10. My biggest gripe is that they get away with ‘serving size 1 cup’, Approx servings 4. Then you measure out the servings and you are lucky if you get 3 cups!!! This is really bad with frozen foods as they tend to judge the servings AFTER it’s frozen.

    Very excited about the added sugars, but like so many others have mentioned there are a lot more steps that should be taken!!

  11. These are my thoughts exactly! You have to be carefully reading those labels and people are just not educated about it. Thank you for this

  12. As a dietetics student, I agree 100% with this post. I think it is important to keep the food in question in perspective and counting numbers is never fun! One thing to keep in mind with the new food label, companies may try to get around the added sugar labeling but adding fruit purees to foods that wouldn’t normally have the sugar to make it seem like there is nothing “added”. I’m interested to see how this new labeling system pans out!

  13. They give you a false sense of security. The new label is still missing important info. I do like added sugars info but I think they are still masking a lot of important info.
    I wish any food that has processed ingredients, additives, GMO’s and preservatives should be noted with a symbol saying so. Make amount of serving size 1 cup vs 2/3 cup. ??? Who eats 2/3 a cup of anything? Just makes it harder to calculate values. Would also like to see calories from fat and sugar(added) labeled. I also am not quite sure of the validity of the trans fat number. Something seems wrong here. I’m betting there are more trans fat than listed. I think that is still a debated subject as to exactly what gets labeled as trans fat. Just a feeling.

    1. Good news – Part of the new nutrition facts is to also make the serving sizes more accurately reflect serving sizes. On soda for example it will list the entire bottle’s facts.

  14. I would like to see Iron in grams. There is no RDA for iron since it varies from person to person, so the percentage is meaningless.

  15. The only thing I look for on a nutrition fact label is fiber. Something that says “whole grain” and only has 2 grams of fiber is not “whole grain”

    I love the new addition for sugar

  16. I don’t really look at the nutrition facts labels either. I mainly just look at the ingredients. I am also happy about the added sugars section on the label though.

    I love avocados and often post avocado recipes on my blog. I can’t tell you how many times people have said something along the lines of “Your avocado recipes look so good! I wish I could make one, but avocados are so unhealthy”. I hate how the media has scared people away from healthy foods, and healthy fats. Thanks for putting up that avocado/doughnut comparison. There is a such thing as healthy fats…and they are tasty!

  17. I do read the nutrition labe, mainly for the salt in the item. Even salt that naturally occurs in foods like fish can be problematic for me. I do also watch the sugar content, but I tend to go with less salt product if I have a choice.

  18. The more whole foods you buy, the fewer labels you have to read also. For example…all the apples, bananas, spinach, carrots, etc have no labels. I try to fill my grocery cart with those things rather than the labeled foods. :)

    But I agree–the ingredient list is much more important to me than the nutrition facts.

  19. After reading The Daniel Plan I realized how the ingredients list is more important than the nutrition facts label. I aim for foods without a package or food with 5 or fewer ingredients listed. I appreciate your blog to help me find more great recipes.

  20. I never thought about it like that until now. Wow what an eye opener. You are 100% right and it’s scary how easily we are all bamboozled by the packaging labels.

  21. I love your picture of the avocado vs donut! Can I put it on my blog and link it back to you? Anyways, you are very right – not all calories are created equal and people sometimes forget that.

    I have been on and off with the reading nutrition labels. I find it that when I do it too much, I get too obsessed about the food. However, I also recognize that I shouldn’t be eating most things that have nutrition labels on them either (i.e. I should be focusing more on fruits and veggies anyways!). However, recently, I have been checking the labels again mostly for sodium. It’s amazing how sodium sneaks up on you! In addition to sodium, I do take a look at the sugar and while I had glanced at the new labels before, I did not realize the new category “added sugar”, which I definitely approve of! I am so tired of all the added sugar I see in food.

  22. 'Evelyn McMullene

    Had a fatty liver a few years ago & my gastroenterologist told me not to eat anything that comes in a box or can. it’s made a difference, liver is now normal.

  23. 'Evelyn McMullene

    Now if only the GMO and definitions of all the CHEMICALS in processed food were listed it would be a help. The more UNPRONOUNCABLE things listed the more I’m inclined not to buy the product. I try to eat “clean” natural food, not processed, for the most part, altho I am hooked on Oreos, bad me.

    1. Try making your own Oreos and you will never go back. I make them once a year for my husband’s birthday and he claims they are even better then real ones. I use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s website. (I use sustainable palm shortening in the frosting).

      I too eat mostly whole foods and pay attention to ingredient lists, not food labels. Though, I do look at the fiber to see if things are truly made from whole grains. I am also excited about the added sugars part,

  24. We use the Nutritional Facts the same way you do. Read the ingredients first then try to decipher questions with the NF. Having more details on the sugar will be really helpful. We eat about 80-90% whole foods, so I want to be really careful about the foods I don’t make from whole foods.

  25. I mostly read ingredient labels, but nutrition labels are nice for serving size when cooking a meal. For instance, if I want to add brown rice noodles to a stir fry, it’s nice to know how much I should prepare for the number of people eating the dish. I think that as long as you know how to read the label and incorporate that information with the ingredients list, it can be a nice tool to help control portion size, along with listening to your stomach. I love that the added sugars are now separate from whole sugars, that is one thing that bothered me about the old label. It would be nice if the label also had a note about limiting added sugars, but people can make that decision for themselves.

  26. I read it all so I can make the best choice out of all similar products. I have a very good understanding of how the body processes macronutrients, vitamin, minerals, etc. so I feel on a quick glance at ingredients first, I am able to make an informed decision. I usually just put it all back!!

  27. Lisa, if I were as articulate I would’ve said the exact things. Except I never ever read nutrition labels but ALWAYS ingredients. I love this change, though, and I’ll start paying more attention when it occurs. Incidentally, I usually put the package back because most of them list more than a few items and stuff that doesn’t sound very foodish. Usually I find that packages with emphasis on what’s good emblazoned on the front, are trying to distract from what’s in the small print, with few exceptions.

  28. If it has a nutrtion label, it is in a package and is probably processed, so I will try to avoid it. But if I do eat it, I like to look at the sodium number. I try to avoid too much sodium. Clean, fresh eating is the best way to go and no nutrition labels are needed there. Happy healthy eating!

  29. I do too read the ingredients more than the nutrition label. However, we have a T1 diabetic in the family, so knowing how many carbs and how much sugar per serving is very helpful whenever a packaged products is needed i.e. 100% juice for fastlow blood sugar fix.

    I do like that proposed change!

  30. I don’t think the daily value should be included because there are few people who eat a 2000 calorie diet, daily. This category is misleading on how much fat, carbs., & protein is in the product.

  31. p.s. I VERY much like the proposed change, although we also are trying to eliminate packaged foods as much as possible, there are times when we do use a packaged product!

  32. I like the change for Added Sugar. I work for a dietician and Carbs and sugar are considered NO GO. I have a running joke with them about carbs and sugar because so much of these in the foods I eat are natural. I would like to know more.
    I use labels to look more at ingredients and serving size.

  33. I have always wondered about the high amount of sugar in a serving of milk, and if I am suppose to count that toward a daily sugar count just as i would if I were to give my child a Milkyway candy bar. I am trying to drastically limit my families over the top sugar intake and haven’t known how to calculate. What is a good amount of natural sugar intake perday?(such as from fruit and milk)?

  34. my digestion and health needs are constantly fluctuating so depending on if I need more proteins in my diet or certain vitamins I will look at those things but the main one besides the ingredients is probably the sugars. Very excited about the added sugars change.

  35. I’m a registered dietitian and an advocate of nutrition labels and ingredient lists, and I love the new changes that are coming. The fact is, everyone’s health status and nutritional needs are different so including a lot of information on the label is important, even if it seems unnecessary to some. For example, heart patients need to closely monitor their saturated and trans fat intake, those with hypertension need adequate potassium and calcium and to limit sodium, those with anemia or who are prepping for major surgery need a diet high in iron, and diabetics need to know how many grams of carbs per serving to control their blood glucose. You are fortunate that no members of your family need to pay close attention to the nutrition label for health reasons, but that may not always be the case. Personally, I’m grateful that all of that information is so quickly and easily accessible to everyone.

  36. I’m with you, Lisa. I find that only reading the ingredients list is of importance to me. Now if they could make it law to describe what “natural flavors” (or the like) are in the ingredients list then we’d be making headway! Thanks for posting this. The “Nutrition Facts” has bothered me for years.

  37. I love this proposal!!! I usually look at the sugars per serving and would love to know how many if any added sugars there are without having to look at the ingredients. Also when I look at labels I look for calories per serving and saturated fats. I typically pay close attention to the first three ingredients and any allergens.
    Thank you for this blog I shared it on my Facebook!!!!!

  38. Not sure it will make that much of a difference but it’s nice to see that the servings per container are visible…however, it’s been my goal to get away from foods with labels….

    I do count calories and look more at sodium content and to make sure I reach some of my other nutrient goals…but when I track my food,it’s after I’ve eaten…and I’m surprised at how well I’m doing with real foods.

  39. We mostly look out for sugar and sodium content, because my husband is a diabetic and needs to watch his intake of both. Other than that though, I worry more about the ingredients list :) I do think the changes proposed are positive ones, however. Possibly even a step in he right direction.

    1. This is a great point! Being a diabetic myself, added sugar and “naturally occuring sugar” both raise my blood sugar. I find that the more ingredients listed, the more sugars are in the product, even if not listed in the ingredients. I think this change in nutrition labels are very important in helping general consumers realize how many items actually have sugar added to them, since it is added to almost everything any more!

  40. Wouldn’t it be great if none of us ate packaged foods? The fact is, we all do to some extent and most in our country do to a very large extent. I think the change in the nutrition label means far more than just changing the label. First and foremost, it brings attention to many that don’t even know they exist! It is also a statement from our government of all things that the current labels are misleading, out of date and not providing us with good information. It is a sign of change. In working with people and helping them eat clean, real food, the first step is making them aware of the chemicals and junk in packaged foods and teaching them to read nutrition labels. It is a step in the process to eating real food. The end goal is to eliminate as much packaged food as possible,and make wise decisions when choosing packaged foods. The nutrition labels won’t be perfect (wish they would explain the potential side effects of the many mystery ingredients like TBHQ and Splenda), but it is a step in the right direction.

  41. L. Walter Hershey

    Being 66 years old, a retired attorney used to reading fine print, I have followed the advice of a licensed nutritionist over the past 15 months to pay equal or greater attention to the INGREDIENTS and to stop — as much as humanly possible — eating processed foods.

    Following this advice and using what is called INTERMITTENT FASTING — which is eating only during an 8-10 hour time span during the day and “fasting” during the remaining 14-16 hours, which took be about 3-4 weeks to adjust to starting in August 2013, I have found it easy to keep off the extra 12% of body weight I had shed in the few months leading up to August.

    Yes, I read the nutrition labels and like the example you posted. But mostly I avoid processed foods and only eat regular, whole foods — using portions and next to no snacking — to give my body the nutritional mix that it needs. I also have dropped supplements of any kind including One-A-Day vitamins, etc.

    What works then is to learn to listen to my own body — rather than rationalize a bunch of numbers and micronutrients. It works! It is called BIO-INDIVIDUALITY.

    THANKS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK UP!

  42. I like to see what the rda of the nutrients is and the amount of protein is, just out of curiosity. I do like the newly designed labels and the fact that the serving sizes will be more close to normal. I like how it is easier to read.

    I have been doing The Daniel Plan now for about 3 weeks. I did the 10 day detox and now have introduced dairy and gluten back in. None of them seem to be bothering me, but I am still keeping them low and going non gluten when possible.

    I find it freeing not having to count calories or points.

  43. I think a good mix of both is required. Not all calories are created equal, however, you can still get fat eating all healthy foods. The ingredients list helps you keep it healthy, the nutritional label helps you keep it in moderation. Healthy foods can become unhealthy if you don’t have moderation. Also, unless you take supplements or unless you memorized what foods have what vitamins, the nutritional label can help you make sure you’re getting certain vitamins at least. Especially if you’re trying to lose weight or have an overeating issue, the ingredient list alone won’t help you. If you’re just trying to eat more healthy and not really lose weight, then its not as important, unless you notice yourself gaining weight obviously.

    1. In my opinion it’s extremely difficult to get unhealthy (I won’t say fat because its easy to forget that thin people can have nutrition-related illnesses) eating unprocessed foods. Food and nutrition labeling are deceptive generally for their reductionist view of food as only agglomerations of ‘nutrition elements’. We really don’t know anywhere near as much about how nutrients work in our bodies, how they interact with each other, and how various environmental factors and micro-nutrients effect absorption, retention and use; as the RDA listed on labels might lead us to believe. Avoiding anything with more than five ingredients listed on the package (Michael Pollan) may be the most sound nutritional advice in decades.

  44. I love trying something new and after hard work and practise bring able to do it.
    There is no comfort then that, and familiarity with the same thing…but when I try something new and soon accomplish it I feel so very proud,…

  45. Great article Lisa. I usually just read the ingredients listing too. One of the big problems with the nutritional facts is that they list all sweeteners as “sugars” (plural). They lump all sweeteners under this title, even though some may not be actual sugar (singular). So HFCS will be lumped under this “sugars” title too, as will any other man-made sweetening agents. And HFCS and the others (like aspartame) are not “sugar”.

    If it were up to me, I would require food manufacturers to list sweeteners under the title “sweeteners” and then list the specific sweeteners with their amounts under that title.

  46. Yes! We are exactly the same. I think nutrition labels actually make everything worse because they lead people to making misguided choices, for the very reason you stated–calories are not created equal. Some are nutrient dense and useful for the body; others, like corn syrup, are completely useless to us, and can in fact hard us. I used look at sugar content out of curiosity too, but it’s always so disheartening that I’ve stopped. The one thing I do always turn packaging over for is the ingredients list. That’s the easiest way to determine if it’s worth your money if it will be a good choice for your health :) A low number of ingredients + ingredients I can pronounce and recognize = a relatively good choice!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Alexandra. That is such a good question! While you can find store-bought loaves that are far better than others (Ezekial is a good choice), most have shamefully long additive and preservative lists. While I don’t tout the health benefits of refined flour (because there really aren’t any), I might chose the homemade white in a pinch. But why make homemade white when you can make yummy homemade whole wheat? ;) ~Amy

  47. I think the change in labeling is good . . . baby steps. I read the ingredient list first. If it fits the bill, when I’m serving/plating the food, I look at the nutrition label for the serving size. I’ve learned over the last 6 to 8 months that I over estimate serving sizes. I haven’t quite mastered “stopping when I’m full,” especially if it’s something particularly delicious, like pasta or cheese.

  48. Love this. Always annoyed me that all sugar 2 was created equal on the current labels. The only other part of those labels I read is sodium.

  49. I’m glad that reading the ingredient label provides you with the info you need, but sadly it leaves many people with less than helpful information. I encourage you to take this into consideration as I know many of your followers suffer from allergies and since you do not seem to be impressed with the current overhaul of labels. We could use a popular voice outside of allergies to promote an important cause. http://www.change.org/petitions/michelle-obama-become-an-advocate-for-clear-and-accurate-food-ingredient-labels-regarding-top-allergens?share_id=rncffjOfQJ&utm_campaign=share_button_action_box&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

  50. I always look at nutrition labels to check for amount and type of fat, but even more importantly for me, amount of sodium. As a heart attack survivor, it is imperative that I keep my sodium down to 1500 mg a day or less. When I first got out of the hospital and started checking how much sodium is in packaged foods, I was absolutely shocked and overwhelmed, wondering how I would ever control my sodium when it’s in almost every packaged product either for flavor or as a preservative. The answer was to go clean. I eat only real, whole foods 90 percent of the time, which eliminated the fear and worry that I would never be able to eat in a way that doesn’t reduce the function of my already-damaged heart. When I found 100 Days of Real Food, I was overjoyed. Thank you for being here to advise and encourage us!

  51. On things like spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce if I go for jarred, it will be helpful to know if there is just a tsp of sugar added to the whole jar or one cup. Right now you have to guess because tomatoes and carrots as ingredients add a lot of natural sugars.

  52. I do look at sodium for health reasons (always looking for under 15%)…kidney stones like to form if I eat too much salt.

  53. I miss the olden days when companies would list all the nutrients they could.

    I check several things. For bread, I check the grams of fiber per serving. I only look at ones that claim they have whole grains or whole wheat, but I feel like the grams of fiber shows me if it’s substantial or just for show.

    For tuna fish, I check the amount of protein in the can (two cans can have the same weight, but one of them has a lot more water and a lot less tuna). Similarly, for sweet potatoes, I’ll compare Vitamin A.

    For soup and other savory things, I check how much sugar there is because I just don’t that sort of thing to be sweet.

    If I’m comparing two flavors or brands of the same thing, I will compare calories, sodium, fiber, protein, and the vitamins/calcium/iron at the bottom.

    I agree that the nutrition label is not enough; I generally check ingredients lists as well. Especially for weird things that don’t make any sense like fat-free sour cream.

    I also agree that I don’t worry about fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, so the added sugar category sounds good. But will they get around that somehow, like by sweeting with something like apple juice instead of cane sugar? We will still need to keep an eye on those ingredients!

  54. I’m all for reading the ingredients instead of the labels. I never look at calorie count. However, I do look at sugar on the ingredient list and it always leaves me confused. For example, we love Larabars from Costco. They are a variety pack of cashew cookie, blueberry and another kind I can’t remember off hand. They only have 3-5 natural ingredients in each bar, but, they have 24 grams of sugar!!! Should I be concerned about that???? I felt like we were doing great because we found something we love and that has no processed ingredients. I’m all for the new added sugar part on the list :)

    1. Dates have a lot of natural sugar. I love making Larabars! One 24 gram pitted date has 16 grams of sugar – 2/3 of its weight. Way better though than 16 grams of refined sugar. Everything in moderation.

  55. I would like to see the change delineating the sugars but from everything I have read, the Grocery Manufacturers Association does not want this change so it will be interesting to see if it comes to fruition. I feel the public would be outraged to actually see the amount of added sugar and pressure manufacturers to reformulate foods. Of course they don’t want this revealed.

  56. Whole food has no labels or ingredient list or grams of fat sugar/fat/KJs etc list…. Just saying! Stick to real food, live food, un-tampered food and you will be ideal weight and good health. It’s not hard really :-)

  57. They should change the label so that foods that contain ANY trans fat cannot put a zero next to trans fat by manipulating the serving size so that there is less than 0.5 g per serving. These are just cosmetic changes. They may as well not bother making them.

    1. They also announced that serving sizes will be recalculated to more realistic serving sizes. For example: “the serving size for ice cream, now half a cup, would become one cup.” I do agree that food industries find loopholes and you mentioned one of them pointing out the serving sizes make it small enough to not count trans fat. I agree – All trans fat should be reported on the label. Reading the ingredients is the key!

  58. I’m excited for the sugar ‘upgrade’ on the labels as well. I’m with you, I pay closer attention to the ingredients of packaged food more than the nutrition label. I’m am not good at ‘eating until I’m full’, so I keep a food diary using weight watchers (so simple!!) and pay very close attention to the serving size. I tend to glance at the fiber content as well.

  59. I only look at the ingredients and am so disappointed that we are not labeling GM foods. Because of that we only eat organic. I can never afford organic berries, so I only pick blackberries that grow wild down here in Georgia. Unfortunately, snakes love then too!! I really miss my favorite fruit strawberries and I have noticed that because organic food is so expensive that I have not been eating it, but saving it for my kids. Even apples are never less than $2.69/lb and we cut out meat 100% because of cost. We eat a lot of apples, banannas, spinach, lentils, rice, jarred tomatoes, beans, breads/tortillas. I spend a lot of time looking up the vitamin and mineral contents of whole foods which never have labels anyway. :)

  60. I actually don’t see any substantive difference between the labels. But that likely just shows how uneducated I am about food in general. So many things in your post stand out to me and enhance my feeling that the more we talk about food the less we understand it (in generality). There was a time in my life that I was a pure calorie and fat counter. One glance at the calorie count would tell me if I would eat it or not (This was in my early 20’s when I wouldn’t eat more than 1700 calories per day and any kind of fat count would drive me crazy)
    I also recall reading somewhere that 1000 calories of grapes is the same as eating 1000 calories of cookies – so I stopped eating grapes. Never mind that 1000 calories of grapes is A LOT, and 1000 calories of cookies is about 3 cookies and will leave me still hungry.
    I’ve also learned to understand how I react to food. For example, my typical breakfast is a cup of yogurt with some berries, chia & flax seeds and whole groat oats. Probably the same or more calories/fat as a bagel & cream cheese. However, with my breakfast I’m full until lunch at 1:30. Bagel & cream cheese is basically a gateway drug to me eating pizza/chocolate etc for the rest of the day because I can’t figure out if I’m hungry, thirsty, full, is that chocolate?
    However, sugar is still very confusing to me. Clearly processed sugars are bad and I have successfully eliminated “fake sugars” (aspartame et all). Level I confusing is fruit- I LOVE fruit. I eat tons of mango, grapes, bananas etc. But they are very high in sugar. So where do I draw the line between high in natural sugars and things like potassium and vitamins. The next level is natural sugar additives like honey. In some “diets” these are also a no-no. I love honey (though really use it sparingly). But now when I go to put a drop of organic honey on my breakfast yogurt mix- I get nervous.

  61. I really need to change the way I eat I am a truck driver 47 years old I do not want to die like this I could really use some help

    1. Donald, I bet being on the road makes it challenging to eat unprocessed,healthy food. Looking at websites like this can be a big help in determining what is nutritious and wbat is junk. It can be overwhelming, so take baby steps. We cut out refined sugar first, subbing raw honey instead. Then we switched to whole wheat flour in baking (we already ate whole wheat bread.) By making one small change at a time, it is not too hard. Good luck!

    2. If this old girl can change, you can do it too, Donald. Stick with real foods versus the convenience foods. Fruits and vegetables, hard boiled eggs, order double portions of real food in restaurants and then take the leftovers with to snack on later. I am praying for your success!

  62. I only look at sodium and ingredients lists. If the sodium is more than 5% its to much. If the product is good on sodium I then look at the ingredients list for added sugars, if there is more than one added sugar it not good. I am diabetic and have taken many health classes and talked with nutritionist and this is how they teach you to find healthy options whether you are diabetic or not. I do think the new labels are going to be great. The labels now are deceiving

  63. I am an avid calorie counter. It is the only thing that has helped me lose weight. I am numbers oriented person by nature. I need that constant feedback to help me self regulate. That being said, I am aware that not all calories are equal. I eat a variety of whole foods. I allow myself occasional treats. I also look at protein and fiber content. If I’ve eaten plenty of calories but still feel hunger its likely i haven’t chosen foods with enough protein and/or fiber. So I check labels to verify. I don’t “count” fiber or protein, but I occasionally check labels to learn and become aware of how much the typical foods I eat contain. As much of my food doesn’t have labels i look up fruits, veggies, meats, and bulk grains, etc. I also read ingredient labels. I look there first before buying an item. Much of it is just educating myself.

  64. How about eat as few packaged foods as possible?

    The only things I buy with a package/label are things in a very whole (one or two ingredients) state: brown rice, quinoa, natural peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter (each has two ingredients: the nut or seed + salt), ground flaxseed, canned fish (tuna, sardines…no added anything), herbal tea, and frozen vegetables (plain, never in a sauce).

    Everything else is fresh produce, fresh protein, dried legumes, eggs, coffee beans…and that’s about it. I don’t eat or drink dairy, I don’t drink soda or powdered drink mixes or juice or flavored drinks (I drink water, black tea, black coffee…no creamer or sweeteners).

    The simpler, the better. Processed food is another name for edible science projects.

  65. I check sodium levels. There is a an extraordinary amount in many things, particularly pasta sauce and soup, even “healthy” ones.

  66. I used to scrutinize every nutritional label before buying something. I used to count every single calorie. It took up sooo much time. Since I’ve started our conversion to less-processed foods, I definitely find that I’m not looking at the nutrition label at all anymore, only the ingredients. And because most of these foods we’re eating now are so filling, I’ve found myself needing to slow down and think about when I’m full, instead of just eating the same amount that I would normally eat.

  67. This is a great step in the right direction! I think a complete over haul is needed in regards to our nutrition labels. I do look at them for sugar content and also calories to serving size ratio. I’m fine eating calorie dense foods, I just prefer them to be whole foods.

  68. Completely agreed. I do however take a close look at fiber and carbs and protein bc I am hypoglycemic. It is completely controlled with diet. I just have to make sure I have a good balance every time or I feel the effects. But for the rest if the family we don’t count anything!

  69. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life and have obsessed over calories and grams of fat for too long! Recently, I have stopped counting calories and in the past 6 months have lost 12 pounds and am at a much healthier weight. I don’t obsess over calories but rather look at the quality of the food I eat. When I want a snack I reach for fruit or nuts instead of something from a box and I think about how the food will make me feel. If I eat a donut for breakfast I know I will be jittery and crash later (I still eat donuts and other junk on occasion but a lot less than I used to because I’m aware of how my body reacts to it). This way of thinking has been really freeing because I don’t have to obsess about calories but I just focus on making better choices and feeding my body the fuel it needs to be healthier. (This weight loss has occurred even with switching to full fat dairy!) I also exercise and when I do so I find my body wants better food for fuel!

  70. I used to read them all the time, and I do still glance at them. But I go for ingredients way more often. The only thing I look for in the Nutrition Facts are sugar (and I REALLY hope they add that proposed idea) and fat (trans and the healthy kind specifically).

  71. I understand your point, but unfortunately for someone with a digestive issue such as gastroparesis, bile reflux, or liver disease both fats would be equally detrimental in feeling well. Labels on food are vital in assisting people who have medical issues in managing how to limit foods (in this example high fat) which others may consider healthy such as nut butters, butter, and avocados that can seriously make someone nauseaus or ill. It certainly would be nice if people could just eat unprocessed foods without worrying about the rest, but that’s not the case for everyone.

  72. I agree about the labels. There really isn’t any point in looking at them religiously. When I am trying to lose weight, I sometimes look at the total calories to make sure things don’t go too out of hand. And of course I look at ingredients. Just as you say, that’s more important to me than anything else.

    I used to do 2 40-day fasts per year – one before Easter and one before Christmas. I am Eastern Orthodox and our fasts consist of a completely vegan diet for the duration of the fast (40 days). Back then I didn’t really know anything about proper nutrition and I would look at the label to see if there are any animal products. That is fine and a good start but the wrong thing I was doing was eat anything that had no animal product including junk food that had no real ingredients. E.g. oreo cookies which have no natural ingredients in them. They are basically science food in a box.

    I have made huge changes to my diet since then but I can’t help but wonder about all the people who actually continue eating junk like that. Just because the label on the package make it “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So nowadays, I’d rather have a piece of locally grown, grain fed, free range chicken, than eat junk and claim I’m “vegan”.

  73. There was one suggestion by many that was not part of the big reveal.
    They should put on the label how many calories you will be ingesting if you eat “the whole thing”.
    It would give pause to many.

    1. I watched the press release on this announcement. That is actually one of the changes that is proposed. If an item is likely to be eaten in one sitting calories per package will be included (they referenced a can of soup for example).

  74. I have to read labels as I am a type 2 diabetic. I have to look at the carb to protein ratio, fiber, sugar and salt. What I find interesting last year I met with the diabetic nutritionist and she told me to eliminate all non-fat foods and focus on “real food”. She also told me to limit the processed food.
    So glad that she pushed me in the right direction and I found your site! Small changes in my diet and slowly my blood sugar numbers are coming down! :)

  75. I used to read both parts of the label. But I learned through Jeff Novick RD that labels are tricky and you have to know what you are reading. I don’t want to have to get a degree in nutrition in order to eat healthy. It would be nice if the government would get honest & put clear, concise labels on food and quit tricking the consumer! I was so shocked when I saw Food Babes video on so called “natural ingredients”….beaver butt glands, honestly how wrong is that?

  76. I look to see if there are any trans fats
    Of course they can be cleverly hidden in the ingredients list too, but if it says there are any trans fats I automatically put it back on the shelf!

  77. I live (more or less) by the same standards – paying more attention to the quality and diversity of food than the calories and grams.

    In light of that, I, too, love the “added sugar” element. I also love the fact that they will group all sugars on the ingredient list (placing it in order of the total sugar weight while still listing all of the individual types of sugars) and the changes in font to make it easier to read the ingredients. (I’m also interested to see the caffeine content info – although not sure if I’ll find that helpful or not.)

    That said, I think that nutrition information is helpful for people who don’t have the same food perspective, and who are trying to learn more about the quality of food that they eat from these labels. For them, I really like the emphasis on the serving size/number of servings per container, the weight of ingredients rather than just the relative listing, the change in the daily sodium intake, and the red highlighting when certain thresholds are exceeded for fat, sodium, and sugar.

    I think these changes place emphasis on aspects of “food healthiness” that are more in-line with a “real food” perspective, and provide higher quality information, so I’m very happy to see the change.

    Now, I just wish we had pushed for a more aggressive transition timeline. (I’m guessing that) None of these companies have any boxes printed for food that they will be selling in 2015. Why can’t the new standards go into effect then?

  78. I look at the nutrition facts a lot less now that I look at the ingredient list a lot more. You’ve really helped me do that over the last year as I’ve been eating less processed foods. I am still a little surprised when my six-year old son comments on the ingredients in something we’re eating–he sees me reading them and now follows by example.

    I agree that having the added sugar part will be nice. I’m curious now from one of the other comments about Canada’s labels.

  79. I agree with you completely. I am very disappointed that along with these major changes they aren’t including labeling GMO’s though. Here in Washington state big food ran their ad campaign against labeling GMO’s because it would be expensive to change labels and cause food prices to rise and they got enough people to believe their lies that our labeling law didn’t pass. Obviously it was a huge lie but this is the perfect time to label GMOs.

  80. I totally agree with your points great post! Regarding the new label, I think it is silly to make the calories label larger than the rest of the information. I think it sends the wrong message. If you are eating foods that are low in calories that doesn’t automatically mean you are eating healthy.

  81. I completely agree with you. I always go to the ingredient list first. I use to have the rule, if sugar is in the first 3 ingredients then we wouldn’t buy it. But now sugar has a million different names and forms. Recently my daughter grabbed a box of “fruit snacks” that had three different forms of sugar as ingredient number 5, 6 and 7 (add those up and it would have been ingredient 2). We didn’t get it because I’m categorically opposed to “fruit snacks.” The point though, is that the new “added sugar” part of the nutrition facts will help those of us without a chemistry degree see how much sugar is added to the food product.

  82. As someone who has a lot of weight to lose due to an eating disorder, I look at both the ingredients and nutrition labels. I do not have a good instinct on when to stop, so I need to keep track. I don’t worry about getting to an exact number, but I do need to know if I’m in the right neighborhood at least. Hopefully as I’m at this longer I will develop that instinct and not have to track it like I do now. I hadn’t noticed the “added sugar” on the new label – that’s great!

  83. Great post! I love that the FDA is adding an “added sugar” component to the nutrition facts label as well. I’m one of those individuals who cares more about how she feels in her favorite pair of jeans rather than what the scale reads, but I do like looking at the nutrition label because it’s a great source of information. I like to confirm that the foods I consume are whole grains,vitamin-packed, low in sugar, and nutritious foods. Also, I think that in a society where serving sizes are just ridiculous, the serving size portion of the nutrition label is so crucial.

  84. I agree with all of your points. However, this NFT is just plain ugly. Both of them are. Canada’s is fantastic, clear, concise, and gives you all the info you need.