Food Labels and You
ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals Manual and the Group Fitness Instructor 2nd edition manual both devote a chapter to focusing on nutrition. Nutrition, along with physical activity, is a cornerstone of weight management.
Understanding food labels is part of applying nutrition to your daily life. It is also something you may see during the certification exam. The chapters in the manual do a great job of providing information about nutrition, but here we are going to learn how to apply that information to the real world.
The first thing to do is grab a snack, a meal, a whatever that comes in a box with a food label. Food is going to be better than a beverage. Go ahead, I can wait a second. Got your food item? Okay, let’s begin.
I’m using a bag of Goldfish baked S’mores snacks (no, not the healthiest, but it’s what I’ve got at hand). Let’s look at the key items, starting from the top and working our way down. These should all be on your food label as well:
1st is the serving size. We all know that one package doesn’t always mean one serving. In this case, my serving size is 54 pieces, or approximately 30 grams.
2nd is the number of servings per container. For the Goldfish there are approximately 6 servings per container. Which would mean a total of 324 Goldfish.
3rd is the number of calories, and how many of those calories come from fat. My label says 130 calories per serving, and 30 calories from fat per serving. For the bonus point, what percent of calories are coming from fat? (30 cal from fat/ 130 cal total = .23 or 23%)
4th are our nutrients: Total Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrates, and Protein. All this is important information, but for the exam the key nutrients to focus in on are the total fat, total carbohydrates, and protein. Do you remember how many calories each of these are worth?
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
When I look at my Goldfish I have 3.5 grams of total fat, 24 grams of carbohydrate (and only 1 of these are fiber, how awful is my diet), and 2 grams of protein.
What can I do with this information? Well, I can tell you that in my serving of Goldfish there are 73% of the calories coming from carbohydrates (24 grams carbs x 4 cal/gram = 96 cal from carbs, then take 96 calories/130 calories = .73 or 73%), 23% of calories from fat (which we figured out earlier), and 6% of calories from protein (can you figure that one out?) Yes, this adds up to 102%, which is slightly over 100% but labels are an estimation and not an exact science.
How does your snack stack up? Are you eating something healthy? Or are you at the bottom of the food chain with me? How comfortable with reading a food label do you feel? Keep in mind that when you are sitting for the ACE certification exam you may be presented with a food label and asked to analyze it. Questions you could be asked include, ‘how many calories are from fat (or protein, or carbohydrate)?’ or ‘what percent of calories come from fat?’
I would recommend that you watch very closely to determine if the question is referring to one serving or one box of a product. You might be asked ‘when looking at this label, how many calories in this box come from fat?’ Do you know how to calculate this? Same way we did above. But remember; calculate the calories from fat for a serving, then multiply that answer by the number of servings per container. For example…
My Goldfish have 30 calories from fat per serving. There are 6 servings in the bag. This means there are 180 calories from fat in the bag (30 calories per serving x 6 servings). I think this means I need to go have an orange or something healthy to counteract the little chocolate, graham and marshmallow fish I just ate.
Questions? Contact an Education Consultant at 1-888-825-3636 x782.
For more information about food labels, including great info on the percent daily values and other items, check the following web page: