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5 Tips About How to Read Nutrition Labels

Do you read nutrition labels? If not, it's never too late to start!⁠ Nutrition labels provide vital information about foods and beverages. Learning how to read nutrition labels properly can help us make healthier choices.

Although many people read labels just to count calories, that little square of facts offers so much more. Nutrition labels inform you about serving size, ingredients, fat, sugar, and percent daily values for nutrients like vitamins and minerals. This helps support your dietary goals and long-term health.

Whether you’re trying to clean up your eating habits or just maintain your current health, reading nutrition labels can help. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when you’re looking at the nutrition facts on the side of a package.

Tip #1. Understand Your Unique Nutritional Needs

First, understand what your body needs for peak nutrition. Are you getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables every day? Do you need more protein or more fiber? Do you have allergies, sensitivities, or dietary restrictions that mean you need to avoid certain ingredients?

Some people prefer to focus on very specific nutritional goals, like eating a certain number of calories every day. For others, it’s easier to think about nutrition in terms of balance, i.e. making sure processed foods that are high in added sugars or artificial ingredients don’t dominate your daily diet. 

Everyone is different. Your nutritional needs may also change over time. However, learning how to read nutrition labels can help you get more of the nutrients you need -- and less of what you don’t.

Tip #2. Read the Ingredients List

The ingredients list is arguably the most important part of any nutrition label. After all, this is what you’re actually putting in your body! If you only have time to look at one part of the nutrition label, make it the ingredients list.

On a nutrition label, the product ingredients are listed in descending order from highest to lowest quantity. In other words, the first item listed is the bulk of the product. There’s a higher percentage of the first ingredient than any other ingredient listed.

When it comes to juices, the ingredients list reveals the quality of the product. ⁠For example, if the first ingredient listed on a juice is “water,” it means you’re drinking low-quality juice. The product may be using concentrates rather than 100% pure juice. Some juice companies also include added sugars, artificial sweeteners, coloring, and chemical preservatives. If they’re sneaking these unnatural ingredients into their product, you’ll find it in the ingredients list.

At Little West, we like to keep it simple. We never water down our juices or add any sugars or sweeteners. We also never use preservatives, concentrates, or anything artificial in our cold pressed juices. ⁠ 

Tip #3. Note the Serving Size 

Serving size is listed at the top of the nutrition label. This indicates how many servings the package contains. Although many foods and beverages only contain one serving, other items may have multiple servings per container. 

Be mindful about how much you’re eating or drinking when you consume packaged items. If you have more than one serving, you’ll need to multiply the calories, percent daily value, sugar content, or other numbers.

Tip #4. Learn the Difference Between Total Sugars & Added Sugars

Did you know Total Sugars and Added Sugars are different? ⁠"Total Sugars" includes sugars that occur naturally in the ingredients, while "Added Sugars" refers to sugars, syrups, or other sweeteners that have been added separately. If a product has 10g of Total Sugars but 0g of Added Sugars, it means the sugars are present in natural ingredients like fruit.⁠

If you’re monitoring your sugar intake for health reasons, learn how to read nutrition labels for Total Sugars vs. Added Sugars. This will help you understand what kind of sugars or artificial sweeteners you’re consuming.

Tip #5. Understand Percent Daily Value (%DV)

As you learn how to read a nutrition label, you’ll notice “% Daily Value” (%DV) on the right hand column. The %DV is based on an average 2000 calorie diet. This gives you a general indication of the nutritional content of the food or beverage even if your own caloric intake is different.

If the %DV of a nutrient is 5% or lower, it means the product is low in that nutrient. 20% or above is considered high. When there is no %DV for a specific nutrient, it means the nutrient doesn’t have an established daily requirement. 

%DV provides an overall picture of your diet. It can also help you focus on specific food goals. For example, if you’re trying to add more fiber to your diet, looking at the %DV on nutrition labels can help you choose high-fiber options.

Use Nutrition Labels to Keep It Simple

Once you learn how to read a nutrition label properly, you’ll realize that simpler is often better. For example, foods and beverages that have a short ingredients list are usually healthier. They’re often fresher, too.

With Little West, what you read on the label is exactly what you get! Little West is 100% cold pressed fruits and vegetables, with zero added sugars, zero preservatives, and no artificial ingredients. Our juices are never watered down, either.

Try Little West today and taste the difference!⁠ Find our juices at Whole Foods in California, Nevada, and Arizona, or order online.

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