Friday Five: Reading Food Labels – 5 Things You Need to Look at Before Buying!

Happy Friday!

I work a bunch tomorrow and some on Sunday, but we have some fun stuff planned in between, so I can’t complain. What have you got going on?

Let’s get right into The Friday Five, shall we?

Do you read food labels?

If you do – yay – and if you don’t – here’s your chance to learn a little bit about some very important things food labels tell you.


My intention here is not to deem any food a “bad” food (I’m a believer of just saying no to food guilt & everything in moderation) – but there are some food choices that are worse than others, and those can be lessened with some handy dandy knowledge about what to look out for when reading food labels.

Got it? Good!

When buying your groceries, it’s a pretty common practice to stick to the outside – meaning, most of your foods should come from the produce, poultry, seafood, and dairy sections and you avoid those inner aisles. But let’s be real, shall we? You’re going to be buying your fair share of items that come with a label. I like to keep it to a small percentage of my cart, but they’re in there for sure.

When deciding what items to buy, here are 5 food label components to watch out for! Consider this your cheat sheet!

1. Serving Size

I hate to break it to you, but many food products contain more than one serving! Take Gatorade, for instance. In that bottle is actually more than one serving, so you’ve got to beware! This could add up to over 300 calories and 70 grams of sugar! The horror. Simply consuming too much food without even realizing it can easily be avoided by checking the serving size before you buy. Another aspect of this is underestimating serving sizes. For instance, some breads only list one slice as a serving, pizzas as 1/5 pizza as a serving, granola as 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons!) as a serving, etc. I’m not sure about you but I definitely am not stopping at 1/5 of a pizza of 1/4 cup of granola. It’s just not happening! If you don’t think you can stick to the serving size, it might be a good treat but not something to have around regularly.

2. Trans and Saturated Fats

These two types are the types that you want to limit in your diet. Healthy fats are a different story! (My name is Ruthie and I am a peanut butter addict). Saturated fat need not be avoided altogether (think egg yolks and coconut oil) but you want to pretty much eliminate trans fats as much as possible. A general rule is that saturated fats should make up about 7% or less of your daily calories. So, if you’re consuming 2000 calories per day, that means 140 calories (13g) or less should come from saturated fats. With trans fats, you want that percentage to be 1& – or less! Be especially careful with foods like potato chips, margarine, cake mixes/frostings, and microwave popcorn, to name a few!

3. Sodium

Most people tend to get way too much sodium in a day. A full meal shouldn’t exceed 500 mg of sodium, let alone a single food item! With the limit at around 2000 mg per day, you’ve got to choose your sodium wisely. Canned soup and veggies, frozen meals, deli meats, and even many breads are full of sodium! Try and replace these foods with homemade versions to cut sodium!

It’s important to note that:

  • sodium free = 5mg or less per serving
  • low sodium = 140 mg or less per serving

4. Sugar

I’m telling you, sugar is sneaky, and it seems like it’s in everything these days! While the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 9 teaspoons (37.5 g or 150 calories) per day for men and 6 teaspoons (25g or 100 calories) per day for women, most Americans consume far beyond that daily. Ideally, this sugar would come from natural sources such as fruits and plain dairy. When you start adding in processed sugars is where the problem lies – sodas, candy, some breads, flavored yogurts, fruit juice, etc. One soda has 132.5 calories from sugar – that’s over the limit for women and just about all of the allotted sugar calories for men! See how that works? YIKES.

5. Fiber

When you do choose foods like breads, cereals, bars, or pasta – look to the fiber! Fiber has a beneficial role in weight control, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Not to mention, fiber keeps you full and energized throughout the day. I consider the above foods without fiber as empty foods with no real value. If, however, the fiber content is reasonable (5 g or higher), they are more likely to hold some value in your diet. Not surprisingly, though, the best sources of fiber come from natural, unprocessed foods. Shocker!

Reading food labels properly and knowing what to look for can help you make better food choices all around. You can make whatever choices feel right to you – but it’s important to at least be informed! Don’t let food labels pass you by without taking a look at what they’re telling you!


Wicked Healthy Wonderings: Do you base food choices on labels? What’s one food you never eat just the serving size of? (Me = pizza, ice cream, berries, veggies, pb, hummus…!)

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    • Katie
    • July 19, 2020

    I honestly don’t check calorie counts anymore, but I do read the ingredient label! I look for number of ingredients and make sure there isn’t anything fake or scary and that’s about it!

    • Tamieka
    • July 19, 2020

    I base food choices on labels-I did a few rounds of whole 30 last year and was amazed at where sugar is…why is there sugar in bacon!!!! The one food you never eat just the serving size of…..guacamole and starburst jellybeans!

    • Ginger
    • July 20, 2020

    I love this!

    • Alyssa
    • July 22, 2020

    Not sure if you’ve seen this is the news, but apparently there is legislation in the works to change the serving sizes (which have been the same since the 60s or something crazy like that!) So sodas and bottled drinks will have to be labeled for one serving, ice cream will be a full cup, etc…unsure how I feel about that since you don’t need to drink a whole 20 oz soda ever, but it will certainly be less misleading.

    • Julie
    • July 22, 2020

    I usually look at a label (unless it is something that I know is “bad” and I’m eating it regardless) and make the best choice possible. I’ve really tried to limit sodium / sugar lately… not eliminate…. just being a little smarter about it.

    • Kelli
    • July 24, 2020

    I definitely read labels. I log my food with MyFitnessPal so I can track my macros as well. Serving size can be a real wakeup call. We purchased a food scale a few years ago and it always amazes me how small some servings are.

    • Courtney
    • July 25, 2020

    yep, i read labels all the time. have a good weekend and thanks for linking up!

    • lacey
    • July 26, 2020

    I always look at the nutritional label. However making my decision based on that is not always somethigh I do. Especially on portion size. I am so bad at that!

    • Jess
    • July 26, 2020

    I try to look at labels as much as possible! I can NEVER eat just one serving of ice cream and peanut butter. It’s a struggle!

    • Susie
    • July 26, 2020

    Serving size, Calories and Sugar are the first things that I look at, then protein, then fiber (especially if I am running) then fat (obviously making sure that there aren’t transfats). I try not to buy things where there is more sugar than protein, but obviously that is easier said than done!

    • GiGi Eats
    • July 26, 2020

    SERVING SIZES are SO TINY!!! SO TINY – it’s sad… And so many people do NOT realize this – thus… OVER EATING happens! I heard through the grapevine that the USDA is trying to change portion sizes to reflect how much we REALLY eat.

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