A key component of healthy eating is understanding how to properly read food labels. You take control of your food choices when you comprehend ideas such as serving size vs. portion size and % daily values.
Even though food labels are helpful, many people don’t use them to guide dietary decisions. According to one survey, just 62% of consumers base their food decisions on nutrition info.
Being able to understand the breakdown of macronutrients and ingredients in your diet is essential whether you’re attempting to stay in the ketogenic state, keep your blood sugar stable, or reach specific fats, carbs, or protein targets. In addition, you should pay particular attention to nutrition labels so that you can ensure that the items you include support your dietary objectives.
Let’s take a deep dive into the components of food labels and how they can be used to improve your choices to help you make the most of packaged foods.
Why Keto Label Reading Is Important
A keto diet gives you much culinary flexibility, unlike certain programs that specify what and when you must eat. However, a ketogenic diet does necessitate careful attention to a single component of eating, i.e., your distribution of net carbohydrates and other macronutrients.
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As you probably already know, the ketogenic diet allows you to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis. For this, you must ingest the proper balance of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.
How can you determine how much of each macronutrient a food item contains? By examining the labels!
Your ability to accurately manage your macros and stick to the course depends on your ability to decipher the information listed on food labels. Furthermore, learning to read labels enables you to identify specific substances that aren’t keto-friendly so you can make more sensible decisions.
How to Decipher Food Label Terminology when Reading Nutrition Labels
You should familiarize yourself with the following parts of food labels to really comprehend what you’re eating:
Serving, or a portion, size is intended to gauge how much individuals consume, not how much they ought to.
The amount of each nutrient mentioned on the wrapper represents what is found in one portion, which is typically not the full amount that comes in the package. For instance, if the amount of Total Carbohydrates is stated as 10 g, one serving contains that amount. The full package, however, includes 40 grams of total carbohydrates if the serving size is 4 portions.
The bottom line is that if you do not check the serving size as indicated on the package and the amount you individually are likely to take at a basic level of activity, you won’t be able to accurately choose which items to purchase.
The amount of energy in food is measured in calories. For example, one kilogram of water needs one calorie or Kcal of energy to warm up by one degree Celsius. This measurement is used by food scientists to estimate the amount of energy that various foods contain.
Arguably, among the primary determinants of losing or gaining weight is the daily calories you consume, often known as energy balance.
Compared to most other diets, the keto diet lays less importance on keeping track of your caloric intake, but it’s still beneficial to keep the calories on labels in mind.
Take a look at the calories in your store-bought foods. It’s likely that they don’t indicate the food’s nutrient density or weight; rather, they just indicate how much energy it contains.
To elaborate, no matter what meal they are in, each of the three macronutrients— protein, carbs, and fat has a specific number of calories per gram, e.g.:
- 1 gram of protein has a calorie value of 4, i.e., 4 units of energy
- 1 gram of Carbohydrates has a calorie value of 4, i.e., 4 units of energy
- 1 gram of Fats has a calorie value of 9, i.e., 9 units of energy
There’s no need to learn these numbers by heart; just remember that calories are the total of all the energy that comes from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats in the item and significantly impact whether you lose, maintain, or put on weight.
Percent Daily Value (%DV)
The percentage of a macro you need on average for the whole day, assuming you are expanding 2,000 calories each day, is shown as percent daily values, or %DV. The 2,000 calorie counting estimate is the typical caloric need of an adult.
According to the FDA, 10% of the vitamin C that most individuals require each day is found in a portion of food. Thus your objective should be to consume 100% and even more if possible. Compared to numbers like milligrams, percentages are significantly simpler to understand right off the bat, which is why they are used. While some labels display both, it’s easier to evaluate with the help of percentages.
The terms Reference Daily Intake and Daily Reference Values, which mean the same thing as Percent Daily Value, may also be used.
List of Ingredients
Ordinarily, the component list is located near the breakdown of nutrients. Therefore, this portion of the label is crucial:
- The list of ingredients gives crucial details about the source and quality of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that are not included in the basic nutrition data.
- Only by reading the ingredients list can you determine whether dangerous artificial additives, such as artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, are present.
- The ingredients list is a wonderful tool to determine whether an item is keto-friendly; it helps you avoid hidden sugars like maltodextrin.
Labels have ingredients listed from highest to lowest weight in descending order. If you’ve ever wondered what it meant when the label indicates the product contains 1 percent or less of something, it indicates that each additional component accounts for no more than 1 percent of the final product. If there are several materials listed there, the cost can rise quickly.
Food producers are required to disclose every ingredient in their products. However, a single ingredient can sometimes be known by many names. So it’s crucial to be aware of all the names a product may be known by if you have a sensitivity to it.
Even if you don’t have any allergies or sensitivities, reading the contents list will help you determine the caliber of the goods you’re thinking about buying. Additionally, meals that are higher quality, fresher, and better for your health tend to not be packed with too many ingredients, have more organic and natural ingredients, and have little to no additives like preservatives.
How To Read Nutrition Labels For Keto
You should be aware of a handful of other elements of the product label if you’re trying to enter or stay in ketosis. For the best keto outcomes, concentrate on the following:
For keto dieters, the carbs portion of the nutrition label—which contains Sugars, fiber, added sugars, total carbohydrates, and sugar alcohols is premium real estate. So if you’re trying to determine whether a food will keep you in ketosis, you can start by looking at the right ratio of carbohydrates to fats and proteins.
Look at the overall amount of carbohydrates first. This is the best way to check whether you can make room in your routine meal plan for a specific food depending on the daily carb intake you’ve chosen for yourself to stay in ketosis.
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It is important to note that the keto diet typically consists of 70 to 75 percent fat, 15 to 25 percent protein, and 5 percent or fewer calories from carbohydrates.
Fiber, which doesn’t prevent ketosis, is also present in Total Carbs. The ketogenic diet benefits tremendously from the fiber. Because of this, many individuals determine “net carbs” rather than total carbohydrates.
You just take out any carbohydrates that your body isn’t able to digest to determine net carbs.
Here’s how you can calculate net carbs:
Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber – Sugar Alcohol = Net Carbs.
To be safe regarding your blood sugar and insulin response, the way to calculate for persons with diabetes is to take away just half of the sugar alcohol.
In that situation, here’s how you’ll know how many net carbs are in the item:
Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber – (Sugar Alcohols * 0.5) = Net Carbs
Macronutrient Ratio For Keto
As important as it is to keep your net carb intake modest, you also need to obtain the right amount of protein and fat to balance your food intake. You can use that as a guide if you are already aware of the exact ketogenic macronutrients you need. To get the ideal ratio, if you’re unsure, you can always find a good online keto macronutrient calculator to help you out.
Another point to remember is that the macronutrients are given in grams rather than percentages on labels. Given that one gram of protein or carbs has around twice as many calories as one gram of fat, for instance, if you see a food label that reads:
- 85 calories
- Fat: 5 grams
- Total carbohydrates: 5 grams
- Protein total: 5 grams
You might assume this indicates a ratio of 33 percent fat, 33 percent carb, and 33 percent protein, but you’d actually be way off the mark. In reality, this indicates a ratio of 52 percent fat, 24 percent carb, and 24 percent protein.
The outcomes should be fantastic if you limit carbohydrates— the most crucial step, and strive to consume most of your everyday macronutrient consumption from healthy fats and protein.
The nutrition label also breaks down fats into three categories: total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. This is similar to how carbohydrates are given on the label with a total amount, followed by subcategories like Sugar Alcohol, Fiber, and Sugar.
On a ketogenic diet, you should consume most of your calories—at least 70 percent, ideally more—from fats. This enables you to remain in ketosis, which burns fat.
Even if the body doesn’t distinguish between different kinds of fat to enter or stay in ketosis, it’s still a good idea to look at a food’s fat profile. The reason for this, depending on the caliber of the food you’re consuming, is that some types of fat are better consumed in greater quantities while others should be limited.
Although the information on such types of fats isn’t often disclosed on labels, unsaturated fat, including polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, should also be balanced with saturated fat.
Science is still working to understand how saturated fat affects heart health, despite not being the nutritional bogeyman it has been made to be. In contrast, unsaturated fats are known to have numerous health advantages.
Low-Carb Foods to Steer Clear of When You’re Doing Keto
There are so many store-bought food items that contain unnecessary substances. The presence of apparent keto-friendly macronutrients does not imply that a snack is healthful. When you’re in the market for foods that are low in carbs, watch out for these ingredients:
- Artificial colors and flavors: 40 red, 5 yellow, and 3 blue 1, any flavor with “artificial” in front of it
- Harmful additives: potassium bromate, BHA/BHT, sodium benzoate, polysorbate 60
- Harmful non-caloric sweeteners: Splenda, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and saccharin
Yes, nutrition labels will significantly impact your capacity to maintain your dietary objectives, enhance your wellness and health, and comprehend what you’re putting into your body.
Ideally, you load up your keto foods with many actual, whole foods like vegetables, good fats, and protein of premium quality that don’t even need a nutrition facts label.
But be sure to thoroughly check your labels on the days when you are craving a convenient boxed item or other pre-packaged snacks.
The more you read a nutrition label, the more confidently you’ll be able to keep to your keto goals, and by keeping up with your keto goals, you’ll be one more step closer to your ideal health and fitness levels!