Make no mistake, food manufacturers will use food labeling tricks to get you to eat their treats. Food package labeling can be confusing. You need to know what you are actually eating in order to be successful at eating better.

Learn how to eat better and control your caloric intake by planning and packing your meals with mainly whole, natural foods. These foods have one ingredient, the food itself (fruits, veggies, fish and nuts are examples).

You may also need to journal your eating choices and weigh and measure your food until you know what, how much and when to eat. Making hasty eating decisions can lead to poor meal and snack choices.

Here are 10 food labeling tricks to be aware of:

1. How do you know if a food is 100% organic. Rather than go into detail in this article, just read my article about what eating organic really means.

2. Controlling the amount of calories you eat per serving is important for reaching fat loss and weight loss goals.

The Nutrition Facts food label above shows the serving size and the number of servings in the package. The rest of the nutrition information in the label is based on one serving. In the example, one bar is one serving, and the package contains four servings.

That means that if you eat the whole package, you’re eating four servings and not one. So, you’ll multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. by four to get the total amount you’re eating.

Other tricks you need to be aware of (source:

3. A label may say that the food has reduced fat or reduced sodium. That means that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from the original product. It doesn’t mean, however, that the food is low in fat or sodium. For example, if a can of soup originally had 1,000 milligrams of sodium, the reduced sodium product would still be a high-sodium food.

My Note: Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in whole foods. That means processed foods have loads of sodium added to them. Just read the nutrition facts label carefully.

4. A common mistake people make, especially with packages dispensed from vending machines, is to assume that a small item contains one serving just because the package is small. If you eat a bag of pretzels from a vending machine, for example, you may find that it contains 2.5 servings. So you need to multiply the numbers by 2.5 to figure out how many calories and the amount of sodium and other nutrients you are eating.

5. Learn what the fat jargon means. For example:

No fat or fat free means the food has less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving.

Lower or reduced fat means the food has at least 25 percent less per serving than the manufacturer’s regular item for this food.

The food is labeled low fat if it has less than 3 grams of fat per serving.

My Note: Eat foods with no dangerous trans fats. Foods in a bag or box have many harmful trans fats, sodium and other ingredients that you don’t need. Shop on the perimeter of your supermarket to find most whole, natural foods.

Trans fats are made by food manufacturers through a chemical process called hydrogenation (to increase shelf life). Excess trans fat consumption over time causes inflammation in your body and contributes to risk of heart disease and other medical problems.

6. No calories or calorie free: Contains less than 5 calories per serving.

Low calories: Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version or a similar product.

7. Sugar free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving.

Reduced sugar: at least 25% less sugar per serving than the regular product.

My Note: Beware of foods high in dangerous fructose corn syrup.

8. No preservatives: Contains no preservatives (chemical or natural).

No preservatives added: Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. Some of these products may contain natural preservatives.

9. Low sodium: contains less than 140 mgs of sodium per serving.

No salt or salt free: Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving. See My Note under #3.

10. High fiber: 5 g or more per serving (Foods making high-fiber claims must meet the definition for low fat, or the level of total fat must appear next to the high-fiber claim).

Good source of fiber: 2.5 g to 4.9 g. per serving

More or added fiber: Contains at least 2.5 g more per serving than the regular food item.

My Note: Aim to eat 25g to 35g of fiber (soluble and insoluble) per day.

As you can see, the food landscape is confusing. That’s why you’re safe if you eat mainly whole, natural foods.

Catherine Ebeling and Mike Geary are co-authors of the popular ebook, Fat-Burning Kitchen, which shows you how to totally revamp your kitchen to make your body a fat-burning machine!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES

Author Details
Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist Your Fitness University
Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist and Myofascial Release/Self Massage Specialist. Since 2006, I have helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle habit changes with my 5-Star Body Transformation Plan, where YOU are the main STAR. The 5-Star Plan helps you to achieve better long-term health, which includes body transformation and ideal body weight. I do not recommend fad diets, quick weight loss gimmicks, starvation diets, weight loss pills, fat burner supplements and the like.

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