Authored by Emily Cooke, RD, LD
Did you know that for many brands of tortilla chips, a serving is just 6 or maybe 8 chips? Six chips? Really?! Who decided that? How do I know this to be true? Because I looked at the Nutrition Facts Label on the back of the package. Nearly all packaged foods are required to have a Nutrition Facts Label on the outside of the package. Nutrition Facts Labels are there to tell us what kind of nutrition a food provides. This includes calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, sodium, sugar, cholesterol and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Did you know, however, that everything listed is centered around…drumroll please…serving size? The nutrients listed are how much nutrition you are taking in if you eat ONE serving of the food. Serving size is required to be listed on the Nutrition Facts Label too, right at the top. Rule number one when looking at a label is ALWAYS start with serving size because if you eat more than one serving; you are eating more calories, fat, sugar, and all the other nutrients listed. As the video linked below appropriately asks “Who really eats just 6 chips?!”. It is very easy to be fooled by front-of-the-label gimmicks. This may include pictures, health claims and even portions of the information you’ll find on the Nutrition Facts Label when you turn the package over. The problem is that the only place you can be sure you are getting ALL the facts is the Nutrition Facts Label.
Follow these basic rules when looking at food packages to be sure you are in-the-know about what you are eating.
- Skip front-of-the-package, good-for-you claims (no matter how convincing they are) and turn the package over to look at the Nutrition Facts Label. This is the only place you can guarrentee you’ll find the unbiased facts about the nutrition of the food.
- Always look and see what a serving size is first. If you eat more than a single serving, then you are eating more of the nutrients listed too, including calories.
- Don’t assume an on-the-go or personal-sized package is only one serving. Follow rule #2 above!
Download a handout on “Understanding Food Labels” from Let’s Go! for free!!
Learn more about front-of-the-package claims and serving sizes by watching this New York Times Video.