Nutrition labels are so helpful, but also are an absolute minefield if you don’t know what you’re looking for! Plus, they differ around the world. British nutrition labels tend to list the nutrition per 100g, whereas American nutrition labels tend to list the nutrition per serving size. Especially when it comes to reading nutrition labels per serving size, you have to have your wits about you! Lenny and Larry cookies are well-known for their cookies being ‘2 servings’, therefore making the nutrients seem more favorable than they actually are. Yes, they have 16g protein per cookie, but they also contain 58g carbs and 14g fat, facts, which, if you take the nutrition label at face value, you may over-look.
When looking at packaging, you need to think objectively and remember that the company is trying to make their product sound as tempting as possible. Take the packaging of the two items below… from the front, you probably think that opting for the mango, cashew and coconut bar would be a far superior choice. It boasts protein and fiber content as well as the fact that it is a ‘nutrition bar’. The Lindt chocolates look like they are not a good choice for a snack. After all, they are chocolate and the packaging uses words ‘irresistibly smooth’ and ‘truffles’ – words we associate with an indulgent treat. Surely the nutrition bar is a much better choice for a calorie conscious snack?
How about if I shared the nutritional information? Firstly, 7 grams of protein does not make this a protein dense food. A cup of 2% (semi-skimmed) milk contains 8g of protein and 2tbsp of my favorite Trader Joe’s almond butter also contains 8g of protein. Secondly…what does ‘a nutrition bar’ even mean? Everything we eat contains nutrition (of some sort!)
As soon as you start questioning the terminology on the packaging, you can make more informed choices. A simple glance at the front of the packaging might make you think that the nutrition bar is a calorie light snack, but, as you can see from the back, there is 41g carbs and 13g fat in a 71g bar, totaling 290kcal, 60kcal more than 3 white chocolate truffles. Now, the ingredients on the nutrition bar are all natural and the sugar content comes from fruit, rather than refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, therefore meaning it has been minimally processed. I am definitely not saying that eating either of these is better than the other option, but just wanting to expose what can be hidden behind a few choice words.
The percentages of your daily value can, frankly, be ignored. These percentages are based on a 2000kcal diet, which nobody follows. Anyone who tracks macros has individualized macros, and, even if their calorie intake is 2000, I very much doubt their proteins, carbohydrates and fats would be split into the exact proportions that are used here. I am currently consuming more than 2000kcal a day, so these percentages are useless to me. Even when I do cut my calories to 2000, there is no way that 7g of protein would make up 14% of my daily intake.
So, ignore the percentages, they are completely arbitrary and take food packaging at face value. Allow the terminology to tempt you, but use the facts to gauge for yourself whether it is a worthwhile purchase.