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How To Read a Nutrition Label

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Updated June 30, 2013

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Serving Size
Serving Size

Serving Size on a Nutrition Label

Image © Emily Dolson
Serving size is a very important element of the label. In the first place, a "serving size" according to a package may bear little resemblance to the amount of the food which most people eat at a time. If a package says a serving size is ¼ cup, it's best to actually measure some out to get a clear idea of how much that is, as it's very easy to underestimate the amount we're actually eating. When it comes to snack foods, you might want to separate a larger package into smaller bags that are the amount of food you want to eat.

Sometimes, as in this label, the serving size is by weight. If you don't have a scale handy, pay special attention to the number of servings in the package.

When we are counting grams of carbohydrate, it's important to look out for "rounding error." For example, if a label says that 1 tablespoon of a food has one gram of carbohydrate, that could be anything from .51 grams to 1.49 grams. That’s not a big deal if you are eating one serving. But there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, so the error could be as much as 8 grams in either direction if you are using that much in a recipe.

A common example of this issue is heavy cream. One tablespoon of heavy cream has slightly less than half a gram of carbohydrate, which labeling regulations say is "zero." This has led some low-carb dieters to believe that they can use several tablespoons at a time. But these "zero carbs" can add up pretty fast.

  1. About.com
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  3. Low Carb Diets
  4. Low Carb 101
  5. Healthy Eating
  6. How to Read a Food Label - Serving Size

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