Poll: What's the First Thing You Look for on a Nutrition Label?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  177 comments   :  22,494 Views

When you're trying to eat healthier or lose weight, reading nutrition labels is a must. With all the numbers, percentages and details, what's really the most important?

A recent report shared the top five nutrients consumers look for when they study nutrition labels: total calories, total fat, calories from fat, sugars and sodium. The report also lists which five nutrients consumers are trying to avoid (such as trans fats) and the ones they're interested in eating more of (such as whole grains).

This led me to wonder: What nutrients do you look at first when studying a nutrition facts label?

I do read nutrition labels, but not all the time, to be honest. Mostly, I look at the ingredients lists to see exactly what is in the product and in what order (since labels must list ingredients in descending order based on weight). This way, I can tell right away if sugar, fat, trans fats (hydrogenated oils), refined grains and other things I don't want in my food are there before I even look at the numbers. For me, ingredients are more important than the numbers on the label, but I will skim those, too.

While I do not pay attention to calories (I'm not trying to lose weight), I do look at protein (as a vegetarian, I’m always trying to maximize it), fiber, total fat, sodium, and sugars on the label. Although I don't count calories, if two foods I'm comparing have a similar breakdown of these other nutrients, I will often pick the lower calorie option.

I also look at serving size so I have an idea of how much I'd need to eat to reach the particular numbers listed and whether that's worthwhile—and realistic. If a serving of cereal is listed as 3/4 cup, I know I'll have to at least double the nutrients listed since that is too small of a serving for me.

Although I read nutrition labels when considering new foods to buy, I almost never go back and read the labels of the foods I buy regularly and eat often. However, I've learned the hard way that a food manufacturer can change the ingredients list (and therefore the nutrition profile of the food) without ever changing the look of their packaging. So it's a good idea to double check the labels of your favorite foods every so often to be aware of any changes that do take place. Get tips on how to read a nutrition facts label.

How about you? What's the first thing you look for when reading a nutrition facts label? Is it because you want to maximize that nutrient or minimize it?

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  • 177
    1)sodium 2) carbs 3) sugar 4) fat 5) fiber 6) protein 7) calories 8) serving size

    I want to minimize sodium, sugar, and sat. fat, increase fiber, and control carbs. - 2/1/2015   11:27:19 AM
  • 176
    Calories, fat then serving size. - 9/19/2010   4:00:01 PM
    Calories, fat, & fiber content - 9/8/2010   9:47:53 AM
    Are you insane? You should always look at the label! - 8/29/2010   10:24:57 PM
  • 173
    I look at the serving size first to see if it is optimal then I look at the calories. - 8/29/2010   12:21:44 PM
  • 172
    For me, it is sodium first, then calories and fat. - 8/27/2010   7:57:20 PM
  • 171
    I look at the calories and serving size first, then fat, sugar, and protien. - 8/26/2010   1:08:19 PM
  • 170
    serving size and fiber - 8/26/2010   9:44:36 AM
    kcal, fat, sugar

    over here in holland there are not much serving sizes on the labels, its usually over 100 grams of the product. And than have to calculate it to a serving. - 8/26/2010   4:57:48 AM
  • 168
    Calories fat and serving size then to be sure no hydrogenated oils.
    We haave been working harder to use the freshest ingrediants and we try to avoid the "middle" of the store as much as possible. Also we look for more whole grains. - 8/26/2010   2:01:37 AM
  • 167
    If it's low calorie then I look at the carbs and fiber next would be fat and sodium and then protein. I also read the ingredient then sometimes I have to change my choice because the ingredient list tells a lot more. - 8/26/2010   12:01:32 AM
  • RONIE11
    first calories. then sodium.. sodium will put water weight on me over night calories take a few days or weeks to add up enough for a solid pound.. that is if we are watching what we eat. - 8/25/2010   6:39:26 PM
  • 165
    Trying to lose 58 more pounds, so calories, then fat, sodium, sugar, followed by ingredients, but I always do all the above, never base a choice on just one. (It's so incredibly frustrating to try to find foods that are natural and haven't substituted one of these items for a reduction in another...) - 8/25/2010   12:23:48 PM
  • 164
    check the ingredients for preservatives -- then saturated fats, sugar and sodium - 8/25/2010   12:21:36 PM
  • 163
    For me:
    1: servings per container, then calories per serving, and serving size.
    2: where the calories are: carbs? fat? protein? looking for balance here
    3: ingredients: whole grains, low (or no) sugar.
    But as I settle into a lifestyle of healthier eating - more and more food choices come from the farmers' market: foods that are "closer to the the way their 'Maker' left them." I'm on my own with these. They usually don't come with labels. - 8/25/2010   9:46:50 AM
  • 162
    I went beyond the cal, fat, carb. I want to know the ingredients, if more than 4, I put it back on the shelf. - 8/25/2010   8:20:29 AM
  • 161
    Calories, fibre, protein, added sugars, basically everything - 8/24/2010   11:08:51 PM
  • 160
    Calories, Fat (Saturated Fat), Carbs.

    I avoid foods with ingredients a ten year old can't spell. - 8/24/2010   10:37:39 PM
  • 159
    I always look at calories / per serving, then sodium, then look to see if there is anything in it that I really need such as potassium. - 8/24/2010   10:25:18 PM
    I look at fiber. I was surprised at how little fiber I was actually eating before. - 8/24/2010   10:17:15 PM
  • 157
    the first thing I look at is sodium - 8/24/2010   8:56:49 PM
  • 156
    Fat first, then sugars, then calories - 8/24/2010   7:06:30 PM
    Calories and fat then the ingredients... - 8/24/2010   6:59:37 PM
  • 154
    Calories - 8/24/2010   5:54:55 PM
    First thing I look for is calories. Then I look at carbs and fiber. I always check the ingredients for HFCS and ingredients I can't pronounce. :0) - 8/24/2010   4:24:08 PM
  • 152
    Calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, fiber - 8/24/2010   4:05:43 PM
  • 151
    So true about the labels changing. I"ve been a fan of and purchased I can't believe it's not butter light for years. Just recently I noticed they've added gelatin to thier list of ingredients ( I don't eat pork) I had to switch my brand; now I used Smart 'Balance which is even better. - 8/24/2010   4:04:35 PM
  • 150
    Calories, calories from fat, and then carbs - 8/24/2010   2:48:36 PM
  • 149
    Ingredients ... Is sugar in the first five?.....Any HFCS or transfats? - 8/24/2010   2:13:28 PM
  • 148
    Being diabetic I look for the carbs, then sodium, after that it depends usually the ingredients. - 8/24/2010   11:08:02 AM
  • 147
    Calories from fat is the first thing I look for then sodium. - 8/24/2010   10:11:35 AM
  • 146
    sodium. every time, all the time. i have hbp and i can tell after a week of too much salt that i'm bloaty and not losing like i should be. not to mention the dry lips, dry eyes, and puffy skin...i hate it and i'm always looking for ways to cut it out of my life! - 8/24/2010   9:49:05 AM
  • 145
    Calories, Fat, Sodium, Protein and Fiber. Then if I think I'll buy it I check the serving size. - 8/23/2010   10:33:01 PM
  • 144
    I look for sodium first because I need to minimize it. - 8/23/2010   10:17:09 PM
    I always look at calories first, then fat grams per serving. I don't go for it if there are more than 10 gms of fat- I try to stay below 3 gms if possible. - 8/23/2010   8:43:07 PM
  • 142
    Portion Size! If one serving will not satisfy me, I have to ask myself whether I should look at another option. Or whether or not I can trust myself to stick to just one serving. - 8/23/2010   7:53:06 PM
  • 141
    Calories first followed by fat and then protein and sodium. - 8/23/2010   12:08:27 PM
  • 140
    First I look at the calories, then I look at fiber, and then serving size. And if I'm comparing products, then I'll look at the rest of the label. - 8/23/2010   10:23:09 AM
  • 139
    Serving size, calories, fat, sugar and then sodium. - 8/23/2010   9:29:28 AM
    Sugar, transfats and anything artificial. I don't by much pre-packaged, but if I must that's what Iook at. - 8/23/2010   9:05:31 AM
  • 137
    Calories, fat, fiber (in that order) - 8/23/2010   8:49:05 AM
  • 136
    I look at serving size, then carbs and fiber then calories. It's interesting how many times REGULAR something has less calories, carbs and more fiber than the LOW FAT or LITE versions. And often, name brands are more of everything, or higher in calories than store brands. Plus, food packers automatically make LOW FAT or LITE versions cost more because they feel there's more people looking for those than the regular. Check it out. I've found it to be true in so many cases.

    It doesn't take long to become a label reader. Even when you don't really understand what you're looking at, it becomes habit real quick and you learn rapidly as you go. Certainly no experience required to reading labels. I think it's fun! - 8/23/2010   7:45:37 AM
    only carbs and transfat ..never heard of refined protein....wonder why ? - 8/23/2010   5:38:40 AM
  • 134
    I buy low calorie and high fiber, than make sure its low fat. Definitely no MSG. - 8/22/2010   11:47:51 PM
  • 133
    I look at calories, then serving size, fat, sodium and fibre content. I scan ingredients as well and then decide on whether eor not I will buy it. Having said that, I rarely buy anything in a package. Most of what I buy is fresh produce or whole grains in bulk and I get my meat from my friend who raises organic beef. - 8/22/2010   10:56:50 PM
  • 132
    Calories first and then I check the ingredients, if the list is long, I don't buy it. Also, if I can't pronounce the ingredient, I am NOT meant to eat it. - 8/22/2010   10:08:21 PM
  • 131
    Because of high blood pressure being an issue, sodium is always the first thing I look for. - 8/22/2010   9:03:35 PM
  • 130
    I read just about everything on the label--looking for trans fats or other unhealthy fats, serving size, protein, and carbs. I also check the order of the ingredients and for breads or crackers, look for whole wheat. - 8/22/2010   8:51:11 PM
    I check the numbers (primarily calories, protein, fat, fiber, sodium), then scan the ingredients. I don't think I ever buy a food product that has a nutrition label without looking at the nutrition information, except for the for the ones I've memorized. Even those are worth checking periodically, because food products change. I check restaurant websites for nutrition information, too, and am pleased when they make nutrition information available, even if it is scary sometimes! - 8/22/2010   7:40:35 PM
    Many of the packaged items I buy are grain-based, such as cereals, breads and pastas...so I look for "whole wheat" or similar as the first item, as well as the fiber content. - 8/22/2010   6:27:00 PM

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