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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Breaking Down the Food Label

I've mentioned it before; food labels can be confusing. Many of us are trying to eat healthier, but if we don't clearly understand the food label it can be difficult to choose healthier foods. That's why I want to spend more time breaking down the components of the food label. We've already talked about looking at the Serving Size first, and we've explained the 5 and 20 rule when looking at the Percent Daily Value (Are You Able to Read a Food Label?). Now, it's time to look at the ingredients.

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, which helps give us an idea of the proportion of an ingredient in the food. When looking at a can of tomato soup, for example, wouldn't you hope that tomatoes would be the first ingredient on the list? If high fructose corn syrup, salt, or some other additive is the first on the list, then that's probably not a can of soup that I'd want to serve!

How do you know if a product has added sugars? Sure, you can look at the Nutrition Facts label and see how many grams of sugar are in the product, but are those natural sugars which are naturally in the food product or are they added sugars? The only way to tell if a product has added sugars is by looking at the ingredients list. If you see sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, etc. then you know that product has added sugars. Plain yogurt and fruited yogurt is a great example. Plain yogurt does not contain any added sugars, but when looking at the ingredients list for fruited yogurt you are sure to find added sugars. When buying fruited yogurt, it's best to compare labels and aim for the lowest amount of sugar as possible. Or you can sweeten the plain yogurt yourself...check out this delicious recipe!

Berries and Cream (Printable PDF)

1 pint fresh berry (any type) or no added sugar frozen berries, thawed and drained

2/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt

1/3 cup non-fat sour cream

4 packets sugar substitute

1/8 teaspoon finely grated orange rind

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Wash berries and pat dry. Sprinkle 2 packets of sugar substitute over berries and set aside. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, sour cream, 2 packets of sugar substitute, orange rind, vanilla and almond extract. Evenly spoon berries into 4 goblets or dessert bowls and top with yogurt mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 90 calories, 0.5 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 55 milligrams sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 13 grams sugar, 4 g protein

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I've heard about almond milk before and it seems a good alternative to cows milk (if your lactose intolerant especially). I've been looking around and found this site on almond milk benefits - care to let us know any more about them?
by almond milk benefits on Tuesday 1/3/2012

by Jenna Smith on Tuesday 1/3/2012

Yes! Almond milk is a great alternative to cow's milk. It's naturally lactose-free and has no cholesterol or saturated fat. Most almond milk has calcium added to it so that it actually has more calcium than cows milk. It also has other added vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium. However, unless you buy unsweetened (not very tasty in my opinion!), almond milk will contain some added sugars. But it's still a great alternative to cows milk!
by Jenna Smith on Tuesday 1/3/2012