What Numbers on the Label Really Matter To You?

A few days ago I asked my Facebook friends who like my page (and I’d love for you to like it too), what numbers they look at on the nutrition label, and which numbers are most important to them.

I was expecting a range of answers from fat to fiber, but was surprised that a lot of the people who responded were looking at sugar as one of the more important numbers on the label. Other people rightly said that they look at the ingredient list as well and not just the numbers.

I guess I’m in the the habit of looking at calories, fiber, and fat more than sugar, but perhaps I need to reconsider that and pay closer attention to how much, and what type, of sugar each food we consume contains. When I lost weight, and even now, I try to keep my overall diet to a healthy fat intake of 30 percent, and probably eat about 1,800 calories a day. We get plenty of fiber around here between the fruits and vegetables we eat and the fact that I make my own bread from freshly ground wheat. However, I’ve never tracked sugar grams.

So what about you? What’s the information that means the most to you on a nutrition label? Diane

23 thoughts on “What Numbers on the Label Really Matter To You?

  1. John says:

    If I’m after protein, then I’ll just look at that. When I was low carbing, I was looking at the ratio of protein to carbs (anything less than 2:1 wasn’t worth getting). I’m about to start maintaining and that means I’ll start looking at total kilojoules (the metric version of calories) and multiply that by the number of servings, so I know how much food is in the container. I know that this sounds complicated but I’m usually pretty good at working out numbers in my head.

  2. blackhuff says:

    In the first year of weight loss, I also looked at fat and calories. That is until I read that it’s not those two which make you fat but the sugar.
    I then started looking at the sugar content of everything and that’s the first thing I read on a label. And guess what? Since I started looking at the sugar content of food and on the labels, I lost most of my abdominal fat and fat on my body which I struggled to lose when I was not keeping an eye on my sugar contents.
    So these people who read labels regarding the sugar content, do have a point.

  3. Sarah says:

    I look at the calories first and then check out the sugar. I realize that the more sugar I eat, the more I crave it. So I am trying to limit my sugar intake. But right now I am doing a meal delivery program so I don’t have to worry about the numbers on the label anymore which is a huge relief for a girl who has been obsessed with calorie counting for almost a decade!

  4. Babbalou says:

    I look at net carbs (total carb grams minus fiber grams) and sugar content, these are the only two things I consider when deciding whether I’ll eat something or not (although I won’t eat something that’s not “real” food – no string of chemicals or unrecognizable ingredients for me). And I avoid wheat. But I’ve learned that calories and fat are fine. I don’t count calories or limit fat, my body will stop being hungry when I’ve had enough calories as long as there is sufficient fat and protein in my diet. It was when I looked at calories and fat that I put on weight and my cholesterol numbers got so bad. Too many carbs, even if they were healthy whole grains and beans, resulted in a 30 pound weight gain over a 20 year period, despite my 25 mile a week running habit during most of that time. Limiting my calories didn’t do a thing except make me hungry, limiting my carbs made me lose the weight plus brought my cholesterol numbers down to a level that makes my doctor happy.

  5. vickie says:

    I eat (vast majority) food which only has ONE ingredient on the label – oatmeal, broccoli, ground flax seed, etc.

    When I make myself dishes/entrees, I am using one ingredient foods to make it.

    So, I guess I look at the ingredient before the percentages.

    The (very) few things I eat with more than one ingredient are well chosen.

    An example is 2T of salsa on my egg beaters omelet each morning. In that instance I am looking for the salsa with the lowest sugar AND salt content.

    Another example is mustard and I am looking for the lowest sodium.

    I eat low fat cheese on occasion – so that one I am comparing the fat content.

    As I look at my day’s worth of food, I personally am looking at total calories, but am also striving to keep the percentages (within total calories) proportional. So, I work to keep my healthy fat, whole food carbs, lean protein all in line with each other. So, it is not enough for me to simply eat whole foods, I keep the percentages in line within these whole foods.

  6. vickie says:

    And I should add – I have NOT tracked food or counted calories in YEARS. I figured it out once, and then know what (categories, portions) to include in my meals to keep everything in line. I don’t sweat the details between spinach, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, etc. I simply rotate between all the green veggies regularly and it all works out in the end.

  7. KarenJ says:

    I was one of the people who answered “sugar” when you posted on Facebook. That’s because I have to eat low sugar to keep the cravings at bay and because I eat very low carb. That being said, I don’t eat that many things that even come in packages anymore so it’s not too often I have to worry about labels. I also do check the ingredients to see if there’s anything artificial in there (colors, flavor). I won’t buy anything that has ingredients I don’t recognize.

  8. Marc says:

    I used to read labels and keep a food journal. I kept track of protein, carbs, fats, calories and fiber. I probably haven’t looked at food label, except for my peanut butter, in many, many months. I have been slowly losing weight through a combination of diet and exercise. The foods I eat don’t normally come with labels, so I don’t bother researching the information. I’m eating real foods. Real fruits, real vegetables, and real meats like chicken, beef, fish and whole eggs. I quit eating breads and bread products, like pastas. I haven’t been consuming sweets with sugar because when you eliminate processed foods that takes care of that. My old fashioned oats are my grains. I feel terrific. My energy level is up. I don’t limit my salads or veggies. I do limit my fruits to usually no more than 3 each day. I’m not a bread and sugar teetotaler. Every 2 to 3 weeks I’ll have one meal with these included. But I do not have cravings or feel denied.

  9. Trish @I_am_Succeeding says:

    Protein vs. calories first. I like to keep it 10 to 1 ratio, meaning no more than 10 calories to 1g of protein. That is my goal. Then I make sure sugar is not over 5g. This pretty well takes care of the ingredients because the further away from natural I see that ratio is way off. I do still look at them to be sure though.

  10. Lisa says:

    For me, the only thing that mattered was the calories. When I first started my weight loss journey, it was pretty overwhelming. The idea of losing 100 pounds was too big in my mind, so I started with losing 50. Keeping track of calories made sense to me, but keeping track of EVERY other nutrient (fat, carbs etc) was overwhelming. I still only really pay attention to calories. It works for me.

  11. Dr. J says:

    I look at sodium and fat. I don’t need to look at calories very often because I usually already know that from what I’ve picked up to look at!

    I can’t leave a link because I am not at my computer.

  12. Joy says:

    For the first two years of my weight loss journey I really only checked Carbs and sugar content (South Beach Diet) Now that I switched to Weight Watchers I check carbs, fibre, fat and protein.

  13. Leah says:

    I find myself looking at calories and sugar. I do look at the fat content too, and think of your plan Diane, but really I’m taking more stock in the sugars, because there’s a lot more in stuff than I ever realized before.

  14. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I look at it all. I make it a point to buy and cook with as many whole foods as possible, but when I don’t I first look to see how much sugar and salt is added, and I also look to see where on the ingredients list sugar is listed. If it’s in the first five ingredients, I almost always put it back (if I am buying really good chocolate, I keep it :-). I also look for ingredients that are masquerading as something else, like hydrolyzed yeast, which is actually MSG, as well as hidden soy additives. And finally, I make it a point to avoid certain types of oils, especially the ones that are high in omega-6,

  15. Paula says:

    Over the past year I’ve lost about 55 pounds. For many months I tracked calories, protein, carbs and fat. Then I hit a major plateau that just wouldn’t move. My trainer helped me figure out even though I was always nailing those numbers, my sugar intake was way high. And it wasn’t junk sugar, it was sugar in fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, milk, regular food that is good for you but can be high in sugar. I drastically cut my sugar-switched to almond milk, ezekial bread, cut way back on fruits with lots of natural sugar, switched to fage greek yogurt, and anywhere else I could cut back. The weight just literally started falling off. It was crazy. My weight loss picked back up like crazy, and I realized that I feel SO much better by watching my sugar (even natural sugar) intake. So sugar is a huge one for me.

  16. Janis says:

    You know, I remember my mom telling me about how packaged convenience foods started to get big when she was raising her family in the 60s and 70s. She said she was curious about things like box cake mixes and stuff like that. She picked up a box and looked at the ingredients and couldn’t pronounce half of them. She’s told me that she was reading it and thinking, “Eggs? Milk? When my mother made a cake, she used eggs and milk. Flour? Where’s the flour? No flour, no eggs, no milk? What is this crap anyway?” And the box went back on the shelf. She wasn’t what I would call “health conscious.” She wasn’t an athlete and still isn’t. Wasn’t an all-natural hippie. She just wasn’t about to eat anything she didn’t know was food.

    She was the same way with box foods like Rice a Roni and Hamburger Helper — she picked them up, decided they were “garbage,” and never looked at them again. For her, it was ingredients that she read and that made the decision for her.

  17. Kate Hujsanje says:

    I am checking labels all the time. First thing I check are calories :D, as I do not want to exceed my daily calorie input. I never consider to check at sugar. Thanks for remind me of that. I will definitely check how much sugar and fat the food contains rather than just checking at calories.

  18. Rachelle says:

    So you make your own bread? My husband is always complaining because I don’t make home-made bread and I’ve wondered if there is a cost and time friendly way to do that. What do you recommend?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Hi Rachelle,

      I do make my own bread. I actually grind my own wheat berries and then bake the bread. If you do a search on the blog for homemade bread you will find the post where I talk about it. Feel free to email me if you have any questions! My family likes it better than store bought but it does take time to make it, which I sometimes find difficult!

  19. Michelle says:

    I always pay attention to the amount of proteins and vitamins, and of course to the amount of calories, however I consider of great importance to eat food with enough nutrients πŸ™‚

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