CHERYL A. MAJOR: The Ins and Outs of Reading a Food Label


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This is a drum I beat constantly with my clients and audiences.  The food labeling practices are so deceptive, we are tricked into buying food we think is healthy all the time. I want to share with you today a few basics you should always follow.

The front of the package is advertising; it’s marketing.  By law, the food companies do not have to tell the truth on the front of the package.  This is where they can grab you, pull you in and entice you to take their product off the shelf and put it in your basket.  You’ll see things like “reduced sugar,” “sugar free,” “added vitamin C,” “low fat,” and “zero trans fat.”

Before you put that box or bag in your basket, it’s in your best interest to turn the package over and look at the back, because this is where they have to tell the truth…sort of…

On the back, the first place you want to investigate is the area labeled “Nutrition Facts.”  This is where you see if there is sugar and how much, trans fat and how much sodium per serving you will ingest.

The really diabolical piece of this is that the food companies are allowed to list 0 grams of sugar or trans fat as long as there are less than .5 grams per serving.  The “per serving” is a clue that you need to check the serving size to see if it is a ridiculously small serving.  If it is, that should be a red flag for you that something’s not right here.

Your next stop on the back of the package would be the ingredients list. You want to look for some type of sugar that they’ve slipped in there.  On my website, in the Resources section, you can download an alphabetized list of more than 60 names of sugar they use in processed food. This will help you spot the sugars you didn’t know you were getting that may be pushing you toward diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.

Once you’ve looked for sugar, take another run through the ingredients list and check it out for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.  These are trans fats, and there is significant evidence trans fat are a big contributor to cardiovascular disease. Again, less than .5 grams may not seem like a big serving, but consider if the real life serving size is two or 3 times what they’ve listed…you are ingesting more than 1 gram of trans fat.  While this may not seem like a lot to you, please remember it builds up over time and with many processed food meals.

They’re trying to trick us.  Now you have some basic tools to know what it is you’re eating.  You may still choose to eat processed food, and that is your choice.  I would just like it to be your conscious choice rather than to have the big food giants fooling us all the time.

This article was originally published on my site at

Helping You Achieve Major Wellness in Your Life!

Cheryl A Major, CNWC

Cheryl A Major lives in Westford and is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. Her TV show, Thin Strong Healthy, airs on WestfordCat and is an offshoot of her blog   Cheryl offers ongoing information and personal health coaching to help you feel better and be healthier. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @CherylAMajor. She is also a full time residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker with more than 25 years experience.

Questions?  Email Cheryl at [email protected] and be sure to put Health Question in the subject line.  Your question and its answer will be included in a future article

P.S.  Check out all the free recipes for great tasting healthy eating in the Recipe Section at