How To Read A Nutrition Label
How To Read A Nutrition Label

How To Read A Nutrition Label

Oh how things have changed since my high school days of eating chips, fries, donuts, nuggets and wondering why older people were always so fat. Mr. Wilde was right, youth, with it’s inherently speedy metabolism, truly is wasted on the young. But with my age has come experience. And experience has taught me that I perform better when I’m careful with what I eat. Reading a nutrition label tells me exactly what I’m putting into my body; it’s a skill that really shouldn’t be a skill -it should be common sense. But I’ve deemed it a skill because of some of the little tricks that manufacturers try when they’re bearing the bones of their products on the back of expensive advertising, I mean packaging.

So, I’m going to go over some basics as well as some tricks that manufacturers use when listing ingredients on labels. Hopefully when you find yourself in your local grocery aisle asking the age old question, ‘is it good for me?’ you can flip whatever it is you have in your steamy hands over, read the label and distinguish the good, from the bad from the downright deadly!

The Basics

Always Look At The Serving Size

Never assume that a smaller packaged snack is just one serving. Sometimes you’ll have more than 2 servings in something like 2.125 oz bag ofDoritos –the size they place near registers. A serving of Doritos is only 1oz.


Never Trust What’s On The Front Of A Package

This is where manufacturers try and sell you on the high points of their product. For instance, 7-Up likes to tout that it has ‘100% Natural Flavors’ in its beverage. Great. Except when you turn around the label and see that the second ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It may have all natural flavors, but it doesn’t mean 7-Up is doing you any healthy favors as far a sugar. Why is it a big deal that HFCS is listed second on the ingredients list? Well because…


Ingredients Are Listed In Descending Order By Their Predominance

That’s a fancy way of saying that ingredients are listed by weight. So, that 7-Up with all natural flavors (listed 4th out of 6 ingredients) is still just cheap sugar water. Also, anything that makes up less than 2% of a product can be listed in any order at the end of an ingredient list.

The Less Ingredients, The Better

Generally speaking, of course. Because the fewer ingredients means that the food has been altered and processed that much less. There are exceptions to this, such as nutrition supplements that are trying to give you a variety of nutrients in one serving.

With all of our Gnarly Products, we’ve made a very serious effort to give precise information on our labels, and never hide behind confusing packaging claims or add bizarre ingredients. Everything we put in our supplements is there because we believe it has a direct positive effect on your health. Follow this link for more info on really terrible ingredients found in everyday foods.

Some Tricks

Carb/Fiber Ratio

A lot of products like to claim they have ‘whole grains’ in them (Fruit Loops does this!). But this can be very misleading. Essentially there are two types of carbohydrates: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are ones that won’t spike your blood sugar. Simple ones are processed quickly by the body and will spike blood sugar. If a product is made of 100% whole grains, it’s a complex carb. But manufacturers will mix whole grains with other refined grains just to put ‘whole grains’ on their label. True whole grains have a ratio of 6 grams of carbs to 1 gram of fiber. This ratio ensures that the food has enough whole grain in it that you won’t get the adverse blood sugar spike after eating it. Look for this ratio when deciding if something truly is made up of whole grains.

Different Names For Sugar

Believe it or not, there are at least a dozen different names for all the artificial and refined sugars that companies like to put into their products. For instance, regular, refined table sugar can be called sucrose, evaporated cane juice (In 2009, the FDA (goto issued a guidance statement noting, “FDA’s current policy is that sweeteners derived from sugar cane syrup should not be declared as ‘evaporated cane juice’ because that term falsely suggests that the sweeteners are juice” -they’re not juice, denizens, not even close), corn syrup, and even fruit juice concentrate.

As far as the artificial side of sugar goes, it’s fairly well known that we should avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) -a corn syrup derived sweetener that has been modified to increase it’s sweetness profile. In fact the Corn Refiners Association tried to have HFCS’s name changed simply to corn syrup to try and dodge some of the negative connotation associated with the name –the FDA refused.

But what happens when a company decides to use a different name for their artificial sweetener? That’s when it gets trickier to decipher a label. You know Splenda is an artificial sweetener, but it can also be called sucralose. Splenda is just a brand name.

Currently there are five artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA. They are:


Gnarly uses stevia to sweeten all of its products. Why? First and foremost, stevia is totally natural; it’s derived from the stevia leaf used in South America for centuries for its medicinal purposes as well as for sweetening. Stevia is also very low on the glycemic index –it won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. Third, it is virtually calorie free. This means we don’t have to load up our products with unnecessary artificial sweeteners to make them more appealing –which also means the calories in our products stay nice and manageable for anyone’s diet.

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